By Olabisi Olaleye and Sampson Unamka
This, perhaps, is not the best of times for most Nigerians who either want to renew or procure international passport as they are finding it extremely difficult because the booklets are no longer available in most states of the country.
Daily Sun’s investigation also revealed that several applicants are stranded in several passports offices across the country as Nigerian Immigration Service says the booklets have been out of stock since five months ago. At the Ikoyi, Festac, Ikeja offices of NIS, among other popular places, thousands of Nigerians can be seen waiting in the scorching sun queueing to procure the much desired green travel booklet, only to be told at the end of the day that they have to wait for a while.
International passport is an official document issued by a government to its citizens authenticating the bearer’s identity and right to travel to and return from other countries.
Speaking to Daily Sun, an applicant, Iyare Odili, said he had paid about N30,000 for a 64-page passport but had not been able to receive the document in the last two months.
“This issue is not peculiar to me alone; almost everyone who is here has similar stories to tell. The hype about 24 hours issuance is long gone because the immigration officers cannot say categorically when the booklets will get to the country. They keep saying it is government business to ensure that the booklets are imported.
“Must we import everything? Why can’t the government procure the machine and produce the quantity needed here. It is not just fair. Nigeria is called the giant of Africa but still behaving like a dwarf.
“This should be a wake up call; every citizen should have this document as it has remained one official document even for financial transactions.”
Some officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Daily Sun that several factors, including foreign exchange and manipulation of pushing the recent 62-page booklet down the throat of applicants, are major causes of the scarcity. Even at the various offices, it is no longer business as usual, as the scarcity has brought a lull to the procurement activities because more people are either demanding for their money or not patient enough to be stressed by various tales of hope.
However, Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Deputy Comptroller Ekpedeme King, in a recent interview said it was only the 32-page booklets that are scarce and not the 62-page.
Said he: “The scarcity of the 32-page passport booklets was due to issue arising from high increase in dollar exchange rate. The 62-page passport booklet is available for purchase and anyone who wants to travel urgently should go for it.”
He added that the government was trying to resolve the issue of the exchange rate with the suppliers and that the 32-page passport booklet would arrive into the country soon.”