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140,000 international passport booklets unclaimed, says Immigration

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The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has said over 140,000 international passport booklets remain unclaimed at its issuing offices across the country.

It expressed worry over the trend, where Nigerians blame the service for not meeting their needs for the essential travel document.

NIS Comptroller General Isah Jere, who announced this yesterday in Lagos, cited communication challenges and the use of third party agents to apply for international passports as the major factors for the increasing number of unclaimed passports.

Jere spoke through an Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) in the Migration Directorate of the service, Abdullahi Usman, head of a committee on unclaimed passports nationwide.

The NIS boss said efforts to reach the applicants for the 140,000 unclaimed passports had become difficult due to either wrong or incomplete information supplied by third party players or contact details.

Speaking during a fact-finding visit to the Alausa Passport Office and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, both in Ikeja, Usman advised applicants who have either lost their slips or forgotten their appointment dates to check Immigration offices where they applied to pick up their passports.

The ACG, who spoke after inspecting activities at the Alausa office of the NIS, urged passport applicants to shun the use of third parties.

Usman said: “Why we are here is a directive from the Comptroller General. He has observed that there are a lot of uncollected passports in all the passport offices. We have about 100,000 unclaimed passports. Apart from that, we still have about 40,000 passports produced recently, all unclaimed.

“This thing is causing us a worry because once you’ve done your own bit and people have not collected it, it causes a worry. It’s based on this that we are not there yet. That is why the CGI set up the committee to make sure the unclaimed passports are clearly given to the owners.

“Again, we came into the field and were able to understand why some were not claimed. What are the reasons we have done the passports and collection has not happened? Before, production was the issue, due to various factors. But now, it is no longer an issue; collection has become the issue now.

“The reason passports are not collected is due to unreliable data: the addresses are incomplete, phone numbers and emails, which are used to quickly reach applicants, are usually not correct. So, communication cannot take place with the applicants, hence no feedback.

“This is because the third party uses his or her own phone number and email address. So, we cannot communicate with the applicants directly to tell them their passports are ready.”

Usman also visited the MMIA Command of the service where Comptroller Adeola Adesokan hinted him on what the NIS hoped to accomplish in the new year.

She gave a breakdown of what the command recorded in 2022 in the number of passengers recorded and the revenue generated.

Adesokan told Usman that last year, the command facilitated 358,953 passengers from January to December and recorded 51,608 passengers arriving via the Visa on Arrival (VOA).

Also, the NIS yesterday unveiled a central enhanced e-Passport production centre for three states in the North to serve Kano, Jigawa and Katsina states.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, NIS spokesman Tony Akuneme said the service sited the centre in Kano to bring improved passport processing closer to teeming applicants in Kano and its environs for effective and efficient service delivery.

The spokesman said Comptroller General Isah Jere, who was represented by the Assistant Comptroller General in charge of Standard Passport, Sadat Hassan, assured Nigerians that the passport reform process was in progress, especially the programme designed for those who returned from different parts of the globe during the Yuletide.

He said the NIS intended to keep the two-week processing timeframe open to those in the Diaspora until January 31 when the programme will end.

“We reiterate our official position that passport applicants should please avoid using third parties but go online and make their applications and payments themselves at passport.immigration.gov.ng.

“We continue to deal with the challenges of recalcitrant touts as well as few bad eggs amongst the personnel who are bent on sabotaging the reform process,” Jere said.

Inaugurating the facility at the Farm Centre in Kano, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who was represented by the Commissioner for Budget, Alhaji Danazumi Gwarzo, congratulated the NIS for making Nigeria the first country in Africa to roll out the enhanced e-Passport.

Also, Assistant Comptroller Generals of Immigration Service have been deployed to some zonal offices across the country to ensure that over 100,000 uncollected/unclaimed passports are handed over to the owners as quickly as possible.

Jere, who ordered the deployment of the ACGs, said there should be no reason for a delay in handing over the documents to the owners.

A statement by Akuneme said Lagos topped the list of uncollected passports with 40,000 produced but yet to be handed over to the owners.

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