9 months after launch: New e-passport yet to commence in states

9 months after launch

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is yet to commence the issuance of the new enhanced electronic passport in states eight months after it was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, Daily Trust reports.

Buhari launched the passport on January 16, 2019, but the NIS immediately announced on their website that the rollout had been rescheduled to begin on April 29, 2019.

The Enhanced E-Passport is part of the new reforms approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

It is a product of intensive review of the existing e-passport booklet which has been in circulation for over 10 years and has only five-year validity period.

Though the new e-passport had been launched in Abuja and Lagos, only the NIS headquarters and the Ikoyi office of the NIS are currently issuing the document.

The Gwagwalada office of the NIS in Abuja and its office in Alausa, Lagos still issue only the old passport.

The service said the process of issuing the passport was being delayed to finalize the integration of the National Identity Number (NIN) with the new passport. It also attributed the delay to its new policy direction.

NIS spokesman Sunday James had in a communication some days ago said the service would roll out the new passport booklets in Kano before the end of September; and in Alausa, Lagos, thereafter.

He said: “What we are doing now is just pilot project. It will be replicated in all states of the federation afterward. We can’t roll out in all the states now because we still have the old passports in stock and we can’t just dump them.

“They were produced with taxpayers’ money and in line with this administration’s policy thrust, there is no room for wastage,” he said.

James assured that the service would start issuing the new passports in all states of the federation in no distant time.

According to experts, features and benefits of the enhanced e-passport reforms included: the introduction of a new security enhanced passport; polycarbonate technology that enhances the quality of the passport; ten-year validity booklet that saves frequent visit to passport offices; automation of issuance process to bring about transparency and address touting/middlemen as well as being strictly online payment based.

According to them, the introduction of the Electronic Document Management System will ensure tracking of application, effective communication with applicants on status of the application and collection; eliminate human interference, enhanced document storage system as well as prompt decision making.

Meanwhile, the new the 64 page 10-year validity e-passport, according to the NIS website, is only for adults (18+). But the 32 page 5-year validity and 64 page 5-year validity will serve both adults and minors.

There is option for adults to pick from any of the three categories. However, young children of less than 18 years age have the option of choosing between 32 or 64 page 5-year validity only.

The NIS insists that the 10-year validity passport is not for persons below 18 years based on ICAO specifications and due to expected change in their physical appearance.

The official fee of the enhanced e-passport is N25,000 for the 32 Page 5-year Standard Passport while the 64 Page 5-years Standard Passport goes for N35,000.

For the 64 page 10-year Standard Passports, applicants are required to pay  N70,000 even as the fee for the 32 page 5-year Official Passport is put at 15,000.

The above official fees, notwithstanding, applicants are still being asked to pay far above these fees, findings by Daily Trust reveal.

One of those who recently got the new e-passport from the NIS headquarters in Abuja said he paid N35,000 to get the 32 Page 5-year Standard Passport.

“I was given a contact at the NIS headquarters in Abuja to help facilitate the renewal of my passport which expired earlier in the year.

“Though I am aware of the new fees, the officer asked for N35,000  which is N10,000 more than the official fee in order to fast track the process for me.

“That notwithstanding, I got the document more than 10 days after initiating the process,” the source who would not disclose his name for security reasons, said.

Others who spoke to this reporter in confidence also corroborated this claim saying the new process has not eliminated “middlemen” in the passports application process.

The service said requirements for the enhanced e-passport are the same with old passports with regard to application type.

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