It is believed that more than 1,000 Nigerians are currently stranded in Atlanta, United States (US) and other countries as a result of expired travel documents and their inability to renew them. This challenge has caused a lot of embarrassment to many Nigerians living in different parts of the world.
But the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has blamed the current shortage of international passports in its foreign missions to last year’s lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The public relations officer of NIS, Amos Okpu, told me that the 2020 lockdown had compounded the challenge of renewal of international passports for Nigerians living in different parts of the world, because of the restrictions.
“We are not unaware of the problems Nigerians living in different parts of the world are going through at the moment over their expired international passports.
I must say that the challenge was caused by the 2020 lockdown, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had compounded activities of the service.”
Okpu noted the problem is more pronounced in countries where Nigeria does not have foreign desks, which, he added has left many Nigerians living in such countries stranded. The image maker of the service, while apologising to affected Nigerians, said the service is already making arrangements to visit such countries to take stock of the affected Nigerians so as to be able to renew their expired international passports.
“We are very sad about the development and we tender our apologies to the affected Nigerians for the problem, hoping that with time, the service will address it.”
Worried by the situation, the federal government has officially rolled out an enhanced e-Passport at the Nigerian High Commission in London, United Kingdom.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who performed the ceremony, restated government’s commitment to improve passport application process for Nigerians at home and in diaspora.
Aregbesola explained that the Nigerian passport is the highest affirmation of Nigerian citizenship, noting that it is government’s responsibility to provide the passport without any stress, within a reasonable period.
“As we are all aware, there have been huge challenges to passport administration, from shortage of booklet to touting and an economy of corruption built around it.
These challenges have persisted for too long and a lot of people have become cynical while others have taken them as normal and then roll with it.
“But I come from a tradition of problem solving in public administration. I do not believe that any problem is insurmountable. We are going to solve all the problems associated with passport administration and we are already succeeding,” the minister declared.