By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has suspended the capturing and issuance of new passport booklets applications in all passport offices nationwide.
A letter dated 17th May 2020 and directed to the Deputy Comptroller General by NIS Headquarters, states: ‘This directive, which comes into effect from today 17th May 2021 has become necessary to allow enough time to clear all blockage of applications sequel to the commencement of the new passport regime on 1st June 2021.
‘Consequent upon the foregoing, all PCOs are therefore directed to utilise this period, 17th May 2021 to 31st May 2021 to ensure that all backlogs are produced and handed over to command comptrollers for collection by members of the public concerned. New applications for passports, whether fresh or renewals are by this circular suspended till 1st June 2021.’
Daily Sun had previously reported that the acute scarcity of passport booklets at immigration offices nationwide is mainly due to the huge debt owed by the country’s immigration agency to Iris Smart Technology Nigeria through its Malaysian based parent company, Iris Corporation.
The Nigerian Security and Minting Company is reported to have charged almost twice the amount which Iris Corporation charges for the production of booklets, which may be the reason the FG didn’t engage them.
The Ministry of Interior which supervises the immigration agency had a Public, Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with the company, which produces the enhanced e-passport, but reports indicate that it has refused to supply the product due to debt owed by the agency.
Irish Technologies met with ministry officials and requested a window to access forex directly from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), but the ministry was unable to facilitate it and urged the company to source forex from the parallel market.
Unable to obtain forex from the CBN, Irish Technologies couldn’t continue its agreement with immigration because of the huge debt and high cost of operations which led to the current scarcity of booklets.
Immigration sources also said that machines for capturing and processing of passports and other working materials have deteriorated and as such, it would be difficult for the agency to meet with the high demand in passport applications.
The NIS said passport application processing to collection has now been standardised to take a total of six weeks.