By Palma Ileye
Minister of Interior, Hon. Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has given a marching order to the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, demanding the swift clearance of over 200,000 international passport pending applications in two weeks.
Tunji-Ojo gave the order during a meeting with top Government officials, the Acting Comptroller General, Adepoju Carol, and the Managing Director of Iris Smart Technologies, a third-party company in charge of the production of passport booklets.
According to a press release issued yesterday by Alao Babatunde, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Minister of Interior, the order comes in furtherance to his promise to remove “bottlenecks in the acquisition of passports and other immigration documents.”
Delays in the processing and enrolment of passports in Nigeria has been a source of frustration for citizens, causing significant delays in obtaining crucial travel documents.
He noted that having to deal with about 200,000 backlogs calls for national emergency.
He said: “As far as I am concerned, the issue of passport is a national emergency. I keep getting emails daily from Nigerians complaining. We cannot continue like that.
“It has become an embarrassment to His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I represent him here as your minister. That embarrassment is mine now. I am not changing my words. I need the backlog cleared in two weeks.”
During the meeting, the Acting Comptroller General, Adepoju Carol, and Managing Director, Yinka Fisher, assured the Minister that all necessary resources and measures would be deployed to ensure the expedited processing of these pending passport applications.
Adepoju disclosed that though the number of enrolment as of Thursday morning spills into 200,000 across the country, the agency has been able to secure enough booklets to clear the backlog.
Charging both the IRIS team and officers of the NIS, the Minister revealed that he receives updates on passport enrolments on a daily basis.
“I get daily report on enrolment from NIS on my phone. This is my best way to be in the know of the situation. Nigerians deserve the best. It is their right to own a passport if they can afford it.
“We will also ensure that our debts are cleared by November. My position remains that the delay in the process of obtaining the passport must end,” the Minister added.
In a similar development, the Minister held a strategic meeting with the Controller General of the Federal Fire Service, Abdulganiyu Jaji; the Controller General of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa; the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Ahmed Audi.
In the meeting, the Minister issued a directive for the creation of a practical and executable roadmap that entails timelines, approach, deliverables, and methodology.
The directive, according him, must be fulfilled within a four-week timeframe.