Why we are yet to clear backlog of passports – NIS

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The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has reiterated its commitment to ensure timely and efficient service delivery to Nigerians.

The NIS Comptroller-General, Isah Jere, who was represented by the Public Relations Officer, Tony Akuneme, gave the assurance at a press briefing at the NIS headquarters in Abuja, assuring that the service has adopted measures to clear the backlog of passport applications trapped by the COVID-19 lockdown.

The NIS boss said he understands the frustration of Nigerians over the delay in getting their travelling documents, but assured that the personnel are working extra hours to meet the yearnings of Nigerians.

“What we are facing is a deluge, an upsurge in the number of applicants and it’s actually overstretching our facilities as well.”

“Those at the passport unit are working beyond normal hours without being compensated.”

“They literally do two shifts without being paid for it just to make Nigerians happy and to satisfy our applicants”.

He explained the increased demand for Nigerian passports in the last few months is not unconnected with the same upsurge across the globe of post COVID-19 pressures on migration.

“Currently, it takes an average of two years to get a facility that you applied for since COVID-19 started in some part of the country.”

“Before now, it takes one to two months to get your document in Nigeria.”

“So, I want Nigerians to know that acquiring travel documents has become a little bit more challenging because COVID-19 has put pressure on the travelling populace worldwide.”

“For the period of 2020, all the applicants for Nigerian passports could not be attended to because we didn’t have physical contact with anybody.”

“Most of our facilities were shut down during the lockdown, so all the applications that were built for 2020 were naturally moved over to 2021 and the ones for 2021 were moved over to 2022.”

“So what we have presently is not necessarily shortage of passports, it is increase in the number of applicants, and it’s the same facilities that we had that we still have.”

“We didn’t recruit new staff, we didn’t open new branches”.

He, however, said measures such as online application booking process have helped to stabilise the process and ensure crowd control.

“What that means is that, you don’t just show up for your passport anymore, you have to go online and apply.”

“When you do that, the system gives you a date. So if the system gives you a bit of next month for instance, are you going to say immigration is delaying you?”

“The system is working on the number of people that have applied, and remember, like I said, the number of applications have doubled or even tripled.”

While adding “This is a global factor that is not peculiar to Nigeria alone”, Jere warnned Nigerians against bribing any immigration officer to process their documents, stressing that anyone caught will be prosecuted.

According to him, “It is an offence to give bribe to our men and that is why we introduced online application in order to discourage direct contact with our men to avoid bribing them”.

The NIS boss has also warned Nigerians on the dangers of irregular migration, so as not to waste their future, stressing that the service is committed to sensitising Nigerians on the dangers of irregular migration.

According to him, “A lot of people want to travel without knowing what they are going to do or where they are going to exactly.”

“People are being brainwashed by agents of irregular migration and you think life is better on the other side.”

“Who says there are no beggars in Canada, USA or UK?”

“There are beggars and homeless people in these countries you are rushing to”.

Jere stated that one could travel if the person has a legal job waiting, admission into school or any concrete legal means of survival.

“If the young people are told that the Libya they are going to is not better than Nigeria, then, that will at least give them a rethink.”

“You can’t be excited going to a country you know nothing about”.

He revealed that some of the young people rushing out do not even use the Nigeria passport issued to them.

While asking, “So what’s the point in getting a document that you don’t need and putting pressure on the system?”, he urged the media to help in educating the citizens on the dangers of illegal migration.

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