Across the globe, emerging technologies and innovation continue to affect day-to-day activities, from the way people communicate to the way organisations carry out their activities. With this trend, it’s safe to project that digital technology will further transform the working environment of the Nigeria Immigration Service in the next 10 years.
To address the problem of scarcity of international passport, Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior has commenced decentralisation of international passports in the 774 local government areas. The process started with the inauguration of the Passports Express Centre at Maitama District, Abuja. International passports, according to the minister, will now be available within 24 hours nationwide under the new Maitama Passport Express Centre (MPEC). Aregbesola said: “MPEC is in response to the yearnings of the general public for the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service to devise additional ways that the passport issuance process can be less stressful and more efficient. It is the future. The goal is to have a facility like this in every local government in the country. Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is our responsibility to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time, without stress. The passport should be available in a maximum of 72 hours of a successful application. Where there are issues, the applicant must be notified within 48 hours”.
Recently, the Minister of Interior commissioned the Nigeria Immigration Service Passport Express Centre, Maitama, Abuja which is established in partnership with the private sector. It is the first of many more to be established and designed to offer specialized services to Nigerians. Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is the responsibility of the ministry to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time.
A centre like this is necessary to reduce stress. Secondly, by minimising human contact, it eliminates the prospect of corruption. The centre will offer value-added service to all Nigerians, irrespective of their status; socially, politically and economically. This implies that the centre will serve the passport needs of Nigerians who may be desirous of premium services. This is in line with international best practice, and also in conformity with Executive Order One on the ease of doing business in Nigeria which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017.
Earlier in March, President Buhari commissioned the Data Management Centre of the agency. Not long ago, NIS presented the electronic temporary passport for Nigerians abroad that do not have regular passports but a one-way travel document to return to Nigeria. Then again, last week, the annual report of the agency was presented to the public. For this and more, the NIS deserves commendation.
Rauf Aregbesola commissioned the Nigeria Immigration Service Passport Express Centre on 30th March 2021. It is an electronic document and has all the features of a regular passport, but it is temporary and valid for one trip and will be retrieved from the user at the entry point. It is a replacement for the hitherto Emergency Travel Certificate (ETC) which was issued to Nigerians in emergency situations where their passports were not available and had a need to travel to Nigeria. The old paper ETC is non-electronic.
This new document is not a replacement for the Nigerian Passport, it will only serve a temporary purpose in the case of loss or misplacement of the Nigerian Passport by a Nigerian abroad. The temporary passport is ICAO compliant and is valid for 30 days.
It is a consolidation of the digitization efforts of the operations of NIS to further strengthen its collaboration with other security agencies for effective border security of the country. In light of the present security challenges, the temporary passport will no doubt help to checkmate criminal elements that take advantage of the ETC to infiltrate the country.
––Inwalome Donald, Abuja