Immigration begins to clear over 100,000 unclaimed passports.Adunni Adetola
Comptroller General of Immigration (CGI), Isah Jere Idris, while announcing mobilisation of the senior officers, hinted that Lagos topped the list with about 40,000 passports yet to be collected by applicants.
He said the other affected zones are Benin and Port Harcourt.
The move was contained in a statement issued by Public Relations Officer of the Service, DCI Anthony Akuneme.
The statement added that CGI Idris had directed Zonal Comptrollers and State Comptrollers to liaise with Passport Controllers to ensure speedy collection of the official document by applicants.
He also said the mandate of the senior officers was to locate the applicants and ensure they pick up the unclaimed passports.
The CGI, while describing as worrisome the failure of applicants to collect their passports months after production, called on those that applied for the documents since last January and within the six weeks’ processing timeline to visit the passport offices where they did their biometric capture for collection of their passports.
While assuring that NIS personnel work round the clock to ensure speedy processing of application and production of passports to meet needs of the travelling public, the CGI stated that passport production is a continuous exercise.
To further assist the applicants, he enjoined passport applicants to always check their application status by using any of the numerous channels which the NIS has provided, including the Passport Application Tracking (PATs) solution (www.trackimmigration.gov.ng), notice boards at the Passport Offices and the NIS website for regular updates.
On what could have been responsible for the high number of unclaimed produced passports, Idris blamed the applicants, many of whom he said, supplied incorrect contact details such as inactive telephone numbers, contact addresses and e-mail addresses, thereby making it difficult for NIS personnel at the Passport Offices to reach them for collection of their passports.
He also disclosed that it has come to the notice of the NIS that some applicants were still patronising third parties to fill and submit applications on their behalf, noting that in many cases, incorrect information about the applicants were supplied.
The Immigration boss said in some cases, the third parties used their own contact details, while majority of the applicants neither verified nor double-checked the information supplied.
He appealed to passport applicants to stop the practice of going through third parties, warning that they could be at security risk, including breach of their personal data and other fraudulent activities.
Idris said: “It is like someone wants to travel and sends a third party to buy a ticket from the airline. On filling out the particulars of the intending traveler, the person sent to buy the ticket filled his or her telephone number and e-mail address. So, few minutes to flight time, the airline sends SMS to all intending passengers notifying them the flight has been cancelled or rescheduled. The passenger unknowingly rushes to the airport only to discover change in flight time. Who is to blame? Nigerians should be aware that the Nigerian passport is more than a travelling document; it is a personal identity and a personal security asset of the holder, and sanctity of the process of obtaining it must be protected.”
Recall that the Federal Ministry of Interior and NIS recently rolled out some initiatives to make less cumbersome obtaining and renewing of the official document, including a six-week timeframe to apply and get the new enhanced e-Passport for fresh applicants and three weeks for re-issuance.
Also, the Diaspora Fast Track Programme was launched recently to make it possible for holders of expired Nigerian passports in the Diaspora to board at their countries of residence and be admitted into Nigeria with their expired passports, without any inhibition.
A circular had also been sent out to consular offices, local and international airlines, and Immigration Comptrollers at the nation’s airports to allow Nigerians in the Diaspora with expired Nigerian passports to be allowed free passage whenever they wanted to come home.
Furthermore, a special desk called Diaspora Desk was also set up at the international airports in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt to provide expeditious immigration services to Nigerians in the Diaspora, especially the application for the renewal of their expired passports immediately upon arrival in Nigeria.
The Fast Track Programme has enabled lot of Nigerians in the Diaspora with expired passports, who came home for the year-end holidays, to renew their documents under two weeks at no extra fee, before returning to their countries of residence.
As part of the Diaspora Fast Track Programme, the Passport Offices also commenced Saturday operation for processing and production of passports, and this significantly made it possible for many Nigerians in the Diaspora to renew their expired passports as quickly as possible.