The federal government of Nigeria is set to introduce automated passport processing for Nigerians living abroad on March 8, 2024 to simplify and streamline the passport application and collection process/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Nigerians abroad to get passport easily from March — Minister

Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, Nigeria’s Minister of the Interior, has reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian government towards delivering a seamless and efficient passport experience for Nigerians, both within the country and in the diaspora. According to him, this was the directive from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to him and other cabinet members towards attainment of the ‘renewed hope’ agenda for the nation.

Speaking on Tuesday at the inaugural 2024 Diaspora Webinar Lecture Series of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) entitled: “New Passport Policy/Processes for Nigerians in the Diaspora,” Tunji-Ojo emphasised the importance of providing top-notch service befitting Nigeria’s stature as the giant of Africa.

According to him, effective from the 8th of March 2024, Nigerians will benefit from a contactless passport application process, reducing the time required to complete the entire process to a maximum of seven to 10 minutes. This monumental reform is part of the overarching efforts to modernise the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and enhance service delivery to citizens.

Highlighting the achievements and sweeping reforms within the Ministry and its parastatals, particularly the NIS, the Minister underscored milestones such as the clearance of over 200,000 passport backlogs within three weeks of his assumption of office and the deployment of E-Gates at international airports to streamline entry and exit processes.

The Minister also outlined plans for the installation of a modern control centre across international airports in Abuja and Lagos, aimed at enhancing immigration officers’ capacity and providing Nigerians with a seamless travel experience. He stressed the importance of leveraging on technology to simplify passport acquisition, stating that Nigerians will only need their National Identification Number (NIN) for passport applications and bio metrics.

“Through an automated system, data will be pulled from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) database to fill application forms, reducing the risk of identity fraud and ensuring a single point of contact for citizens”, he said.

The Minister added that plans are underway to automate the passport enrollment process, enabling online application, biometric capture, and home delivery of passports, thus eliminating the need for physical visits to passport offices.

The Minister addressed concerns raised by participants from various continents regarding current challenges in passport application and delivery processes, assuring them of the government’s commitment to resolving these issues soonest.

The former lawmaker urged Nigerians to take pride in acquiring their passports, as the new process heralds a new era of hope and progress for the nation and its diaspora community, adding that the Ministry will partner with NIDCOM.

Earlier, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, commended the Minister’s efforts, highlighting the significance of the Diaspora Lecture Series in keeping Nigerians abroad informed about programmes and reforms of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration.

In her presentation, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Caroline Wura-Ola Adepoju, emphasised that the new process would significantly reduce human interaction, thereby eliminating inconveniences associated with passport applications and saving time for both applicants and immigration personnel.

Adepoju said the Service produced 1,033,506 million passports in 2021, another 1,597,729 million in 2022, while in 2023 over a record 2,141,300 million (were produced amidst various challenges. She, however, said that many Nigerians did not come forward to pick up their passports at various centres she visited recently both within and outside Nigeria, promising that from March, there will be positive improvement in passport production without going through any stress or interventions.

The event is NiDCOM’s first diaspora virtual lecture series in 2024.

Abdur-Rahman Balogun

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