Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has directed officials of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS ) to exploit every capacity within the service to ensure issuance of international passports to genuine and qualified applicants within 48 hours.
The Minister said with deployment of state- of- the- art technology, the 48 hours timeline for acquiring an international passport was achievable if officials of the NIS eliminates human contacts and deal with racketeering, which has built an “unusual economy “, around the passport issuance process.
He said the directive has become imperative because of the pains and agonizing experience many Nigerians are subjected to in their bid to procure the important travel document.
The Minister also directed the NIS to be on top of its game by putting in place a strict implementation process of the Border Management Strategy in order to ensure border safety and security.
The Minister disclosed this on Friday in Lagos while flagging off the NIS Management retreat.
Aregbesola urged the NIS to eliminate bottlenecks associated with procurement of international passport by adopting cutting edge technology that will reduce human interface.
He said NIS as the face of the nation at border entry and exit points must train its personnel on how to treat Nigerians and others with dignity.
Aregbesola said the service must place high premium on the provision of infrastructure and human capacity as motivation for efficient services.
Aregbesola said huge infrastructure is useless without the human elements, urging the NIS to invest more in the training of its personnel by scaling up infrastructure of the mind to achieve efficiency in service delivery.
He challenged the NIS to scale up its facilitation at the airport to reduce long queues for arriving passengers.
The Minister said Nigerians deserve a better deal NIS urging its management to think out of the box on how to implement the three point agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari bordering on security , economy and transparency.
He enjoined the NIS to play a leading role in ensuring that the borders of Nigeria are safe and secured to guarantee buoyant economy and a transparent service delivery.
Doing such, he said will make Nigeria preferred destination for investors and visitors without comprising national security.
Aregbesola said: “From information available to me, it is possible with the right technology in place for Nigeria Immigration Service to issue international passports to applicants who have paid the official fees after forty eight hours. If there is any delay, the officials should communicate to the affected applicants .
“One of the ways to achieve this is to deploy the right technology and eliminate human contact in the passport issuance process. This way, we eliminate sharp practices and racketerring built around the process. This is the way to go and all officials should shun all forms of corruption in the discharge of their duties.
“The primary role of the Immigration Service is the Security of the border and migration management. No unwanted , suspicious and criminal person must be allowed entry into our nation just as we are to prevent the exit from Nigeria of all known domestic real felons and or domestic potential felons from leaving Nigeria to tarnish our image abroad .
“All officers of the Service must as a matter of urgency, embrace the digital tradition and be technology/computer compliant, particularly at the senior and management level. Our officers must shun all forms of corruption through openness and transparency in the discharge of their duties.
“Should there be justifiable delay in delivering on this commitment, there must be a mechanism to communicate, such reasons (s) within a period as agreed in the retreat to such applicant for the passport which must not be later than 72 hours, after discovering such reason.”
The Minister emphasised that with technology, Nigeria Immigration Service must eliminate the tradition of endless wait for obtaining the Nigerian Passport by Nigerians desirous of having one.
“With technology, it is possible to process and obtain the passport within 48 hours, if the application does not have any issues. Nigerian passport should be available within 48 hours maximum after application and at the official fee, the same goes for entry visa, resident permit, seamen license, as well as application and processing of other services.”
Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede said the three day retreat was put together to serve as a platform for drawing strategic road map 2019 -2023 to drive the NIS in achieving set goals.
The retreat he said will also provide a platform to review the process and documentation at its various service windows.
Babandede while condemning sharp practices associated with the process of acquiring international passport urged the minister to assist the service in tackling the problem of booklet scarcity.
He said : “I must admit to the Minister that many eligible Passport applicants are currently not having any appreciable satisfaction in interfacing with our Passport window while applying. The process of acquiring our Passports still remains not only very confusing and frustrating but also very fraudulent.
“Many of our Personnel have continued to institutionalize sharp practices on our Passport processing window as many applicants now procure the document on the basis of how much they can afford to pay as bribes and not how much diligence they observe in following up the Passport procedures we have stated on our website. I believe strongly that whatever we do here nothing much will change except the Minister of Interior assist the Service in tackling the problem of booklet scarcity.
“We must continue to evaluate our operational and personal conducts in line with government’s set agenda of improving security, economic development and transparency.
“Whether we are working in the Passport offices, Control Posts and/or any Unit for that matter, if our conducts and actions do not promote national security, economic development and transparency in government affairs, we have not only missed the point but also diminished our relevance in the national development efforts.”