Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, minister of interior, announced on Thursday that the federal government plans to digitise processes to improve travel experience for international air travellers.
According to him, these processes will include an e-gate technique, online passport processing, and an advanced passenger information system, effective December.
The minister said this in Abuja during BusinessDay’s breakfast meeting, which centered on catalysing funding for high-impact social projects.
Already, as of October 1, the immigration service has been able to clear all the 204,332 passport backlog on the minister’s directive.
According to him, all these new reforms are geared towards improving the country’s ease of doing business, allowing easy access and procedures to individuals and attracting the much-needed investments, since it has been proven that technology can enhance the process and simplify responsibility.
Tunji-Ojo said: “In the area of passports, it is not just about clearing the backlog; I have told them at immigration. We have cleared the backlog 100 percent, it is gone, but it is about the backlog never having a space in our country. It is not acceptable, this is the biggest black nation on Earth.
“I see no reason why I need a passport and I need to cancel a day’s job. Just because I need my right, it is your right, I am not doing you a favour by giving you your passport. We must understand the fundamental difference between the right and the privilege.
“And that is why by December this year, if you need your passport, you apply online, you upload your passport photograph, your supporting documents and attestation online. You only go to the office for biometric and nothing more.
“Any action of the state that causes inconvenience is not in the interest of the people. During break, lunch period, people should just walk into the immigration office and go back to work. We need to make life easy.”
Consequently, by February, travelers will not need to go back to the passport offices to collect their passports but they will be delivered to their houses, the minister said.
“It is not rocket science; this is called copy and paste. Once the immigration process is seamless, business will always improve. We must understand the principle of simplification of responsibilities. And this is what we are trying to do,” Tunji-Ojo said.
The minister also said that by February, the government will deploy what he called smart kits and e-gates in the airports for a seamless immigration service.
He said: “I cannot as a foreigner get to Frankfurt and face immigration drilling and get to my own country and immigration will say, ‘wetin you bring come’.
“When you get to the airport, scan your passport with your fingerprint to be sure you are not carrying another person’s document; you enter because by law no government official has the right to deny a Nigerian entry to this country. It is your right, so why make it complicated?
“What we are doing now, which will be effective by February, is the advanced passenger information system. What that does is that as you are coming into the country, the immigration service has your record ahead, so they do prior profiling like they do in other countries. So when you get there, if you have any issues, you are flagged automatically and that is because they have done background checks.”
Set to intensify controls at borders
He said the reforms will also include intensified plans to mitigate the challenge of internal security through border control as a country that cannot evaluate the inflow/outflow of people is prone to insecurity.
Tunji-Ojo said: “A safe border is a safe nation, a safe nation is a safe universe, if you cannot secure your borders, the police, the military, and other security agencies will be under pressure. The ability to control your border will reduce insecurities by more than 70 percent.”
The minister said there is a need to pay attention to border communities “as we need their support and cooperation to guarantee safety”.
He said there’s a need for an identity management system that involves setting up a party to harmonise the database of citizens to a single point of contact that every service provider or agency can plug in as there is no need for proliferation.