• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Passport automation excites Nigerians but concerns remain  

Why Nigeria’s passport scarcity persists

… FG postpones ceremonial launch

The launch of the international passport automation system on Monday has elicited excitement among Nigerians, who have, however, raised concerns about other aspects, especially the biometrics.

While many have applauded the Federal Government and Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the minister of Interior, expressing hope that the system will end the long, tedious, and corruption-ridden passport application process, concerns have been raised regarding the non-automation of the biometric capturing process. Social media has been abuzz with citizens pointing out that the inefficiency and delays may persist if the biometrics capturing is not fully automated.

Read Also: Here are steps to apply for automated passport

The passport application automation system went live on Monday though the ceremonial launch was postponed by the Federal Government. Ajibola Afonja, the director of press at the Ministry of Interior, confirmed this to Business Day in a telephone chat but did not disclose the rescheduled date.

With the historic automated process, Nigerians within and outside the country seeking to renew or apply for a new passport can now utilise the online application platform. The automation is expected to ease and simplify the application process. Checks by BusinessDay showed that the National Identification Number (NIN) is a compulsory requirement while biometric capturing will be done offline at immigration offices

However, netizens who criticised this requirement said the delays which the automation sought to address may continue, adding that biometric capturing should not be a requirement since capturing was done during NIN process.

Read also: Tunji-Ojo assures Nigerians of ease at changing passport data online with new reforms

A Nigerian with the handle @thatnaijaguy on X (formerly Twitter) wrote,” While I commend the minister for this good step, I want to point out that, to completely solve the inefficiency problem, everything should be completely automated. Biometric data are already captured during the NIN enrollment, why do that again?”

“As long as there is human contact in the process, believe me, there will still be corruption, delays and inefficiencies. What is worth doing is worth doing well”, he added.

Another netizen @Chidiebi12032004 wrote, “Here comes the problem. The moment you walk into the immigration office the ‘bojuboju’ will start and you may pay the money or else you capture yourself since you know how to fill out forms online. Oga nothing has been solved here.”

Victor Uwaifo, another Nigerian believes that it would have been more efficient to validate biometrics at the point of collection. He stressed that it would be better if Nigerians complete the online application, get notified when their passport is ready, before getting fingerprint scanned for collection

Similarly, @Imaima2020 wrote on X, “My Hon. Minister,@BTOofficial, please I take the name of God to plead with you to eliminate physical contact in the process.  Biometrics has been captured during NIN registration.  These immigration officers are going to rubbish your effort. They are used to corruption.”

Meanwhile, the ceremonial launch for the passport system earlier scheduled for January 8, 2024, has been postponed.

Read Also: UK’s “Intelligent border” could allow people in without showing passports

However, as the automation of passport applications commences, Nigerians anticipate changes. The new automated system reduces the face-to-face requirements and makes it more convenient for applicants.

“Part of the reforms we are putting in place now is that when you want to enrol for your passport you fill your forms online, you make your payment online, you upload your passport photographs and other supporting documents from the comfort of your homes,” the minister said.

The automated system is also intended to enhance security by quickly identifying fraudulent passport applications. With document verification officers stationed nationwide, the system will ensure thorough scrutiny of passport applications across all local government areas, contributing to strengthened national security measures.

The enhanced passport application process represents a significant advancement in the country’s security. It promises quicker detection of fake passport applications and aims to reduce blockages, reinforcing the overall efficiency and reliability of the passport issuance system.

Tunji-Ojo also highlighted that the new system will help to save, especially the vulnerable in the society the inconvenience of travelling to Abuja for processes as simple as “a change of name”; instead, they can now complete this process conveniently from their homes.

“With the new reforms, you don’t need to travel to Abuja to change your data. Everything will be online,” he said.