Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, in Abuja on Thursday, said the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) produced more than 1.7 million passports in 2022.
Gatekeepers News reports that Aregbesola who disclosed this while fielding questions at the 64th edition of State House briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team, said the figure was a landmark achievement.
The Minister rated the Ministry of Interior and its agencies as having scored above 80 per cent in terms of performance.
Aregbesola said, “By Dec. 31 2022, we produced more than 1.7 million passports.
“In the annals of Nigeria that has not happened before; as I am talking to you, we have more than 200,000 booklets in our store.
“`We are not denying the fact that there are human-induced challenges if you look at the number of applications, vis-a-vis the number of passports produced.
“We are above 80 per cent in performance; in any way, take it as given that we produced more than 1.7 passports in 2022.’’
According to him, a presidential directive had been issued with regards to the domestication of passport production.
He explained that the Ministry of Interior, in collaboration with the NIS, had empanelled a “project steering committee’ with mandate to actualise the goal.
Aregbesola also said there was a major reformation and digitisation of passport issuance and administration as a temporary electronic passport had been introduced.
The Minister spoke further, “We are digitising the process; my plan was to fully digitise the Ikoyi Registry in Lagos by Dec. 2022 but I could not fully achieve that.
“What does that mean? When this process is concluded, an applicant does not need to bring anything anymore; you complete your process online and by that time, you don’t need an agent.
“There can’t be racketeering. I am on it and I want to guarantee that we will do it before we leave.
“We have also concluded arrangements on the temporary passport issue; we have the passport, but we have some issues with our sister ministry – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we are solving it.”
According to him, the temporary passport will facilitate a return to Nigeria for Nigerians living abroad if they need to get back in emergencies and did not have current passports.
Aregbesola noted that such Nigerians would return home, carrying their expired passports also.
He continued, “Much as that won’t be a problem to us to take at our reception desk, some airlines could be difficult.
“I can even tell you that we are discussing with South Africa now; South Africa does not allow the use of expired passports as a nation contrary to International Civil Aviation Orgnanisation (ICAO) regulation.
“ICAO says that every citizen of a nation dead or alive cannot be denied entry to his home; which is logical anyway.
“The last time I treated a file from South Africa through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they were insisting that if one’s passport is not current, one cannot be taken in or out of South Africa’s space.
“It is their policy; you cannot deny a nation its national policies and programmes.
“To avoid that, we introduced what is called temporary electronic passport; it is a one-way passport to return home.’’
Aregbesola explained that under the temporary passport regime, citizens who had the data pages of their expired passports could take them to Nigeria’s embassies to get the temporary electronic passport after paying the appropriate fees.
The Minister said, “The temporary electronic passports are almost exactly the same as their expired passports.
“It does not have more than one page to take you home; when you hold the electronic passport, you cannot go anywhere but home.
“We are still in negotiation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.’’