• Monday, June 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Tackling the scarcity of international passport

Nigerian passport remains one of the world’s least powerful in 2024

Nigeria as a sovereign state makes its own laws. The country by these laws handles issues of passports (travel document and immigration). As a matter of fact, it is indeed the Federal Government’s responsibility to provide passport for the citizens. One of the fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens is the right to freedom of movement.

This freedom of movement includes entrance and exit from the country as well as trips to foreign countries. Globally, every country would require people coming into their country to hold travel documents (international passports), among others. Consequently, unless the federal government provides international passports, its citizens cannot exercise their right to freely move and/or travel out of the country.

Recently, the Federal Government could not provide international passport to Nigerians, stating scarcity of passport booklets as a reason. Thus many citizens are reportedly stranded in foreign countries, simply because Nigerian embassies failed to provide international passports to its citizens abroad.

Besides, millions of the citizens at home are grounded in Nigeria, with no passport to lawfully leave the country, even after months of paying for passports.

The lack of passport booklets at the nations’ immigration offices has reached a crisis point and something needs to be done urgently

The Immigration Act 2015 establishes the Nigeria Immigration Service and empowers it to handle the following; (a) the control of persons entering or leaving Nigeria; (b) issuance of travel documents, including Nigerian passports, to legalcitizens within and outside Nigeria; (c) issuance of residence permits to foreigners in Nigeria; etc.

Scarcity of passport is an issue that needs to be proved before any person can seek relief based on it. Since it is the right of citizens to freely travel in and out of the country, then the federal government must protect such a right. This entails the timely provision of passports in Nigeria and in the Country’s embassies across the world.

The lack of passport booklets at the nations’ immigration offices has reached a crisis point and something needs to be done urgently, without further delay, to redress the unwholesome situation.

Nigerians have been going through harrowing experiences within the past one year due to various reasons ranging from a shortage of passport booklets to obtaining the National Identity Numbers (NIN) from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

Many Nigerians who have applied for international passports and fulfilled all the requirements are constrained to wait endlessly for their international passports.

Sources at the Immigration office blamed the scarcity of the documents on a payment system which made it impossible for printers/contractors to meet up with printing of passport booklets.

Read also: Passport scarcity affecting 1.5m Nigerians in Italy – NIDOE

Moreover, it was gathered that Nigeria does not produce any of the booklet components, so they all have to be purchased from abroad. Hence, the production of e-passport booklets locally in Nigeria does not conserve foreign exchange.

The cost of producing a 32 page international passport in Nigeria cost NGN25, 000 and USD130 outside the country. The 64 pages cost NGN35, 000 in Nigeria and USD150 outside the country.

Given the dismal fortune of the naira, it is clear that immigration service is finding it very difficult to meet up with the demand for the passport booklets.This is more-so since the cost of passport has not been increased to reflect the high exchange rate.

To end the incessant complain of ‘no booklet’ at passport offices across the country, we support the House of Representatives position that the Ministry of Interior should review existing agreements with the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc and IRIS Smart Technologies Ltd for the production of passport booklets.

Iris has been solely financing the production of the passports since 2003 and has been remitting the revenue to the federation account.

Unfortunately, reports have it that apart from the many legal and technical complexities involved in terminating the contract with ISTL, The MINT does not have the capacity to produce the booklets in Nigeria and would need to print abroad as well.

We think it is absurd for the country not to be able to print these passports in Nigeria. We believe the MINT has the capacity to produce the booklets in Nigeria given the needed support from government, and this will help conserve foreign exchange.

We want the Federal Government to understand that it is its duty to issue passport and promote the use of lawful boundaries and entry points. And that when it fails in this duty, the rights of Nigerian citizens are being violated.

International passport is one of the rights enjoyed by citizens all over the world. And in other countries, international passports are obtained with ease as they are issued immediately upon application. Therefore, Nigerians should not be made to suffer before their rights are given to them. So why should Nigeria’s case be different? It is time to accord decent treatment to Nigerians. And the provision of passports on a timely will be a significant step in this direction. We are of the conviction that the managers of the Nigerian State should rise up to the occasion on this important issue.