Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola’s years at the Ministry of Inteiror saw the introduction of innovative ideas geared towards ensuring that the nation’s internal security architecture is further given a better deal.
Aregbesola got to office in August, 2019 and left on May 30, 2023.
In four years, all of the agencies under the ministry received tremendous transformative ideas which ensured that its operations delivered effective service to Nigerians.
The agencies – Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) as well as the Nigeria Fire Service all got massive operational direction that restructured their modus operandi for better performance.
Some of the innovations and ideas carved out from Aregbesola’s ingenuity boosted the fortunes of the agencies and shaped the structure of homeland security in the most populous black nation.
Starting from the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Aregbesola’s reforms fully automated the service of the agency especially to fulfill its Citizenship Integrity mandate.
When Aregbesola came on board, the Passport Application Process was besieged with problems. There were no booklets to print passports, payment by applicants was done with cash, no SOP, Nigerians applied on paper at passport offices, no standard collection timeline and the entire process was not trackable.
In the process of reforming and correcting these problems, COVID-19 hit the world, making an already bad situation worse. The situation ceased all forms of production around the world for over 6 months. Booklet suppliers could not meet up demands, and the backlogs started piling up. Understanding the situation, the former Minister set up a high-level Ministerial Passport Reform Committee that met him bi-weekly, and later monthly throughout his tenure. The committee was able to:
- Eliminate all forms of cash payment and physical applications at the passport offices, making payment and application strictly online;
- Introduce an online appointment system whereby before payment, applicants check and choose the nearest day available for capture;
- Introduce a tracking system so applicants can know precisely the stage of their applications & if there is any problem via (track.immigration.gov.ng);
- Introduced a collection timeline of 3 weeks for fresh applications & 6 weeks for renewal;
- Addressed booklet shortage by securing Presidential approval for NIS to utilize a portion of its Forex IGR for booklet procurement;
- Initiated the establishment of front offices, some in collaboration with States, Local Governments & communities;
- Inaugurated a Committee on Passport Application Facilitation Front Offices (PAFFOs) under PPP & Passport Application Fast Track Service (PAFTS) to ensure more front offices are created;
- Cleared over 1.5m backlogs after COVID-19 in April, 2021. In 4 weeks, the NIS cleared over 600,000 and started begging people to come and collect their passports, while other countries were battling theirs.
‘RESULT – 4.5m Passports Produced Out Of 4.7m Passport Applications In 4 Years’
The efforts geared saw to the production of a total of four million, five hundred and ninety-one thousand, fifty-five (4,591,055) passports out of the four million seven hundred and thirty-six thousand, seventy-five (4,736,075) passport applications were issued between August 2019 and May 2023.
Available data indicates that the passports issued during Aregbesola’s time as the minister amounted to 96.94 per cent.
In 2019, 470,363 passports were issued, and 780,470 passports were issued in 2020. In 2021, a total number of 1,057,908 passports was issued while 1,621,703 passports were issued in 2022. In 2023, the ministry issued 660, 611 passports before the exit of Aregbesola in office.
Apart from the statistics of passport production, the Ministry under Aregbesola’s supervision opened more passport front offices to ease applications with new offices opened in Daura, Katsina; Zaria, Kaduna; Ilesa, Osun; Auchi, Edo; Oyo, Oyo; and Alimosho, Lagos States.
Before the launch of the new offices, the front offices were only located at the State House, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Assembly and Sagamu.
Also, during Aregbesola’s time as Minister, enhanced passports offices were launched in Ottawa, Canada; New York, USA; Atlanta, USA; Washington, USA; London, UK; FCT, Abuja; Kano and all states in the South-South, South West and South East of Nigeria.
Some of the passport reforms introduced during Aregbesola’s time as Minister include the establishment of standard operating procedures, elimination of all cash payments at the passport office, and introduction of an online appointment system.
Others are, Tracking passport applications in real time online and Introduction of a standardised timeline for passport collection. Three weeks of reissue/ renewal and six weeks for fresh application.
Before he left office in May, there was no backlog of passports as machinery was put in place to forestall such, OSUN DEFENDER gathered.
Sodiq Yusuf is a trained media practitioner and journalist with considerable years of experience in print, broadcast, and digital journalism. His interests cover a wide range of causes in politics, governance, sports, community development, and good governance.