The Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has given a marching order to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), demanding the swift clearance of over 200,000 pending international passport applications in two weeks.
The minister gave the order during a meeting with top government officials, the Acting Comptroller General, Caroline Adepoju, and the Managing Director of Iris Smart Technologies, a third-party company in charge of the production of passport booklets.
The order was in furtherance of his promise to remove bottlenecks in the acquisition of passports and other immigration documents.
There have been age-long delays in the processing and enrollment of passports in Nigeria, which have caused frustration for citizens, causing significant delays in obtaining crucial travel documents.
The minister had said that having to deal with about 200,000 backlogs calls for a national emergency.
At the meeting, the minister was quoted as saying, “As far as I am concerned, the issue of passports is a national emergency. I keep getting emails daily from Nigerians complaining. We cannot continue like that.
“It has become an embarrassment to His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I represent him here as your minister. That embarrassment is mine now. I am not changing my words. I need the backlog cleared in two weeks.”
During the meeting, the Acting Comptroller General, Caroline Adepoju, and Managing Director, Iris Smart Technologies, Yinka Fisher, assured the Minister that all necessary resources and measures would be deployed to ensure the expedited processing of the pending passport applications.
Adepoju disclosed that though the number of enrollments as of Thursday morning spilled into 200,000 across the country, the agency has been able to secure enough booklets to clear the backlog.
The minister had told both the IRIS team and officers of the NIS that he receives updates on passport enrollments on a daily basis.
He said: “I get daily report on enrollment from NIS on my phone. This is my best way to be in the know of the situation. Nigerians deserve the best. It is their right to own a passport if they can afford it.
“We will also ensure that our debts are cleared by November. My position remains that the delay in the process of obtaining the passport must end.”
The Minister also held a strategic meeting with the Controller General of the Federal Fire Service, Abdulganiyu Jaji; the Controller General of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa; the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Ahmed Audi.
In the meeting, the minister issued a directive for the creation of a practical and executable roadmap that entails timelines, approaches, deliverables, and methodologies.
The directive, according to the Minister, must be fulfilled within a four-week timeframe.