The director-general of Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr. Joe Abah, has attributed the present scarcity of the Nigerian passports to the increase exchange rate of the dollar.
Abah made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria yesterday in Abuja. He noted that the dollar which was formerly exchanging between N150 to N160 was now N300 and above.
Abah added that the passport was not produced in Nigeria as only three companies in the world had the capacity and techniques to produce an international travel passport.
“The reason for the scarcity is because since it’s not produced in the country, Nigeria had a contract with the foreign firm to do most of the production.
“ And at the time the contract was signed, 100 dollars was worth N15,000 which is the cost of the Nigerian passport of 32 pages, the 64 pages costs N20, 000.
“So with the naira being so much against the dollar, it meant that the N15, 000 paid by individuals will only amount to 30 dollars not 100 dollars.
“So the money citizens were paying simply could not buy it anymore and government was a bit reluctant to increase the price three fold.
“Currently, the government is making efforts to look for ways to subsidise the cost until we can produce the passport in the country or dollar drops.’’
According to him, it would take quite a bit of investment to have all the component of the passport produced in the country as the tread used in stitching it and paper for the leaflet was difficult to come by.
Abah said that the Federal Ministry of Interior and Nigeria Immigration Service were making efforts to ensure that the passports were produced in Nigeria to address the scarcity.
He noted that the passport would soon be produced like the drivers’ licence in the country, adding that the available passport booklets were presently being used to clear the backlog of applicants.
“A few months ago the Comptroller-General of Immigration announced that we now have passport booklets available across the country and across the world.
“ However, there had been a backlog of about six months or so, people who apply newly are still waiting because they are still dealing with the people who applied before them.
“So our expectation is that in the next few months, it will ease up and we will go back to the standard timing which is supposed to be 72 hours from where all your documentation are checked and correct.”
He said that the bureau had also carried out a study on the process of obtaining an international passport and driver’s licence to address the challenges.
Abah said that findings from the study revealed problem of internet, electricity as well as touting in some parts of the country.
He explained that the study was carried out through interaction with customers on their experiences and officers of the bureau going undercover to monitor operations.
Abah said that the full report was yet to be submitted to the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety and the Comptroller-General of Immigration, who had been briefed on the findings.