BY MAYOWA SAMUEL
The Nigeria Immigration Service has said that about 97,000 passport booklets issued were uncollected in the 36 states nationwide including Federal Capital Territory.
The Service Public Relations Officer, Comptroller of Immigration, Tony Akuneme disclosed this in an interview on Friday in Abuja.
Akuneme said that the service recently found out that Lagos State had half of the uncollected passports.
He said that there was also a danger that half of the owners of the uncollected passports could not be reached due to lack of proper documentation because of a third party involvement.
He also said that the essence of the state of emergency declaration was to draw attention of the media so they could deepen the process for the service as a lot of people don’t know if their passports were ready for collection.
“Some of them engaged agents to help them in their passport processing and these agents might be doing it for a lot of people.
“They end up dropping wrong contacts and thereby making it difficult to reach out to the owners of these passports when they are ready for collection. This is a big challenge,” he said.
The Acting Comptroller General, NIS, Mrs Caroline Adepoju had recently declared a state of emergency on passport issues across the country.
The SPRO said that the service recently found out that most applicants’ complaints also bother on some human factors and technical factors which included slow speed of Internet.
According to him, the CG didn’t want to leave anyone in doubt as to the issue of passport processing being her core area of interest.
“That’s how she came about that term of declaring a state of emergency in the passport issues.
“When the acting CG assumed office, she made it very clear that she was going to focus on Passport reforms and staff welfare, “he said.
According to him, the Lagos state Governor is willing to collaborate with the CG in terms of expanding the Passport services in the state.
“So, we went to Lagos State Governor to help in terms of giving us office space where we can set up front desk offices and immediately, the governor was very positive in his response
”Lagos is a tourism place and immigration has a key role to play in the mind of anybody visiting the state.
“So it was a welcome development and you can see that the state of emergency that was declared is already yielding fruits as the governor accepted CGs request on land allocation to build staff quarters in Lagos, “he said.
Akuneme said that the Service however, needed the media to tell Nigerians that people should not think there were no passport booklets.
He said “there are booklets issued that are not collected. It is ironic, we don’t have a problem with booklets, we don’t have a shortage of booklets.
“What we have had in the last one or two years is a sudden upsurge in the number of Nigerians wanting to travel . We felt it was also related to COVID-19,” he said.
Akuneme assured that the result would be instant as more facilities were going to be put in place to curtail any challenges of passport issuance across the country.