Disturbing scarcity of Nigerian Passport

By AdvocateNews on 06/12/2021

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•We need to tackle the root causes of the problem


As the world prepares for the Yuletide festivities, it is disheartening for large numbers of Nigerians abroad that they will most likely be unable to travel back home to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with their families and loved ones. This is because of the difficulties many of them are having renewing their expired international passports at the Nigerian missions in the countries where they are domiciled. It has been reported that students, workers and professionals in different fields of endeavour are the most severely affected by this problem. The issue is said to have been complicated by the shortage of passport booklets as well as problems in obtaining the National Identity Numbers (NIN) from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), a requirement that is mandatory for the issuance and renewal of the document. For example, about 1,000 Nigerians are estimated to be stranded in Atlanta, United States, as a result of their inability to renew their passports.

Many of those facing this challenge had their stay abroad extended due to restrictions on movement across national borders caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, leading to the expiry of their passports.

But this problem predates the pandemic.

We find it inexplicable that there is a scarcity in the first place of such a critical document as the international passport, which is vital in the conduct of international relations among countries. Keeping track of the trend in the demand for the country’s passport and ensuring adequate supply at all times to meet this need is certainly not rocket science. All it requires is meticulous planning, attention to detail, serious- mindedness and efficiency in discharging their duties by the officials in charge.

Of course, beyond the issue of not being able to come home for the seasonal holidays, the sight of large numbers of Nigerians abroad  besieging our missions in a futile quest to renew their passports is a public relations embarrassment to the country. For instance, last month, the Nigerians in Diaspora Network (NDN), staged a protest in Oberhausen, Germany, which was widely publicised on social media. Chairman of the group, Mr Victor Ojeabulu, was apprehensive that if not urgently addressed, the situation would create more problems for Nigerians, including the risk of deportation from their countries of residence. One of the protesters lamented that, “The sad story is that we book appointments for Nigerian international passport with Nigerian embassies; we travel unimaginable distances, sometimes across international borders, to pay and be captured for the passport. Thereafter, we are made to wait indefinitely on the ground that booklets are not available”.

The reality is that without valid, up-to-date international passports, it is virtually impossible for Nigerians abroad to undertake many routine activities and live normal lives without fear. Many times, they need the international passports to urgently renew their residency or go through crucial documentation procedures in their respective countries of abode. Those working may need to renew their passports to continue in employment. Women who are required to get their children registered officially by their host states may be unable to do so without valid international passports. The kind of avoidable hardships these citizens are forced to go through by the perennial insufficiency of passport booklets further alienates them from the authorities of their country and cannot engender in them the spirit of patriotism, which is crucial for national development.

At a time of serious economic downturn from which Nigeria is just recovering, it is astonishing that the nation is not availing herself of the enormous revenues that can be reaped from the issuance and renewal of her international passports, especially given the large number of Nigerians in diaspora who need this service. Of course, we acknowledge that the Ministry of Interior is taking steps to tackle and resolve the problem as stated by the Minister, Mr Rauf Aregbesola. As he said, “This year alone, the ministry approved a special deployment of over 600,000 passport booklets, the largest of its kind ever done to cushion the effects of shortage being experienced”. He revealed further that a total of 2,742, 207 passports of different categories were issued between 2019 and now.

However, we have an emergency on our hands on this issue. Much more should be done to immediately address whatever may be the root causes of the shortage of passport booklets. We urge the minister to quickly follow up on his promise that new production and capture centres would be opened to ease access by Nigerians all over the world as well as take necessary action on his observation that “The year-on-year increasing growth rate is however putting a lot of pressure on the current processing structure and resources and further justifies the need for a reform in the passport application and processing system in line with the current reality”

Source The Nation

Posted 06/12/2021 06:35:49 AM

 

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