Coronavirus pandemic responsible for delay in issuance of Nigerian passports in last two years, says immigration service

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) said the coronavirus pandemic was responsible for delay in the processing and issuance of passports to Nigerians in the last two years.

Penpushing reports that, Public Relations Officer of the Service, Amos Okpu, made this known on Wednesday, adding that the authorities have, however, started addressing the backlog, stressing that there was upsurge of applications during and after the pandemic

“The COVID-19 19 affected operations, we didn’t shut down, and people still had access to make payments. When the space got open we had surplus applications. We have to treat them but no real production was going (on) across industries and passport production was not an exception,” he added.

“We have had an upsurge of applications during and after the covid. We need some time to stabilise the system. We are not happy about it, we are addressing the situation,” the agency spokesperson emphasised.

Penpushing further reports that, Okpu added that some of the materials used for the production of the passports are not sourced from the country due to inadequate technology, explaining that as part of efforts to ensure that passports are distributed, officers of the service now work on weekends to make sure the backlog is being cleared.

The Public Relations Officer of the Service, however, lamented cases of poor documentation on the part of applicants, pointing out that documentation has been challenging, adding that sometimes phone numbers of applicants doesn’t exist

“Documentation is a challenge, sometimes phone numbers of applicants don’t exist. When we send bulk SMS to applicants, some don’t receive it because of wrong documentation. Some of the agents put their numbers in place of those of the applicants, it’s usually difficult to get across to them”, he said.

Penpushing also reports that, Okpu while addressing the issue of enhanced passports in some regions, explained that after a review in 2017, the agency settled to migrate to an enhanced passport and decided to follow a pattern or procedure to avoid confusion.

“We don’t have the technology. No time frame. We apologise and bear a little with us. It is not a hopeless situation. It’s a work in progress. When an officer is asking for something against the law, we expect you to interrogate it. Raise it to a higher officer,” he said.

Penpushing reports that, it is recalled that Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, had earlier claimed that there is no passport booklet shortage in Nigeria, as all backlogs had been cleared, stating that in 2021, government provided 1.3 million passports to Nigerians .

‘In 2021 alone, we provided 1.3 million passports to Nigerians. As of today, there is no booklet shortage in Nigeria. As of the second quarter of 2022, the NIS has provided 645,000 passports out of the 750,000 applications received’, Aregbesola was quoted saying.

‘To address the challenge of the backlog, we have sent 11,000 booklets to Ikoyi, 11,000 to Alausa and 8,000 to FESTAC centres in Lagos State. We have also sent sufficient booklets to all the centres nationwide to address this challenge”, he stated.

Penpushing further reports that, the Minister while speaking said, 10,000 passport booklets had been deployed to the new Port Harcourt passport production centre, to fasten passport issuance in the state.

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