BY SULE YA’U SULE
Most Nigerians are aware of the revolution taking place in the facilities issued by the Nigeria Immigration Service and the impact it will have on how Nigerians travel. Nigerians who own international passports can recount their experiences in procuring and renewing this travel document in the past, owing to bureaucratic bottlenecks. While other countries have simplified this process, the Nigerian experience has been quite different.
The international passport that ought to be a source of national pride for the holder has unfortunately been turned into a spring of grief for both holder and officials. The international passport potentially determines the service trust level and transactional relationship between a country and its citizens. An international passport holder is a proud ambassador of the country whose passport he/she carries.
The introduction of new Nigerian passports under this administration will therefore be considered a remarkable intervention with far-reaching implications. The new Ten-year security-enhanced e-passport is tribute to the vision and drive for excellence by the Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede MFR. CGI Babandede’s leadership initiated the groundbreaking reforms. Since his appointment, he has brought a Midas touch and championed various reforms in the ways and manner the Immigration Service delivers its statutory obligations to the public. Today’s NIS is more disciplined, more patriotic and service-focused.
Before this administration took over the mantle of leadership at the NIS, the outcry by Nigerians in the Diaspora especially, has been strident. For instance, anytime President Muhammadu Buhari traveled outside the country and had cause to engage members of the Nigerian diaspora community, they often complained of their difficulty in renewing their passports or procuring new ones for family members. Any Nigerian needing to renew their passport would be required to physically visit the embassy or consulate to conduct the business. But with the introduction of the new passport with different menu to meet each persons demand ie; 32 page and 64 page, 5 year and 10 year validity all in an effort to satisfy the yearning and to make it people friendly and affordable. A genuine wish of many Nigerian passport holders was to extend the lifespan of the passports. It was easy to see the connection between the frustration of Nigerians in Diaspora and the hardship they faced in procuring and renewing their passports.
It is therefore noteworthy that CGI Muhammad Babandede’s audacious reforms have significantly eased the business of passport renewal/reissue for Nigerians at home and abroad. To the pride of all Nigerians and credit to the Buhari Administration,
CGI Babandede-inspired new passports have features that meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation ICAO standards. With twenty-five new security features which include the engraving of a holder’s National Identity Number (NIN), the new international passport which will become available for issue to members of the public from March 4, 2019, has acquired exceptional economic value. Any Nigerian passport holder from March 4th will be rest assured he/she is in possession of a qualitative, durable, safe and respected traveling document with great global value and competitiveness. This, the Service has done in an effort to gradually phase out the old which presently runs concurrently with the new passport
One key feature is that the biodata page comes in polycarbonate technology that eliminates damage, and not laminated like the previous one. Thanks to this new feature, fraudulent persons will find it harder to alter personal information, including changing a photograph on the Nigerian passport.
Another important feature is the Multi Laser Image (MLC), which captures the primary and secondary image of a passport holder. This heightened tamper-proof feature gives the passport double-safety uniqueness and dissuades attempts to duplicate or forge it. It also comes in a higher quality material than the previous one.
For those Nigerians searching for role models in public leadership, CGI Babandede should be celebrated for revolutionizing a national asset which had generated bad image for the country for so long. It is worthy of note that the problems associated with Nigerian passport procurement and renewal, including their vulnerability, have lingered for so long without a solution. How many times have Nigerians vented their frustrations at our foreign consulates over the problems they encountered in passport renewal? Their demonstrations and anger on social media have become a veritable and steady flow of negative news about Nigeria. Many foreigners, including investors and tourists, have been dissuaded from doing business with Nigeria after reading these adverse comments which Nigerians post on social media against their own country. Many foreigners, especially the international media, form negative impressions about Nigeria, from what Nigerians write about Nigeria. The impact of this great move will be felt for many years to come. It will lead to better services. Nigerians in the Diaspora will now enjoy more professional and pleasant experience renewing their passports from their bases. They will no longer need to travel frequently to our embassies and consulates to renew their travel documents. More so, new express centers have been set up for urgent applications and they now enjoy enhanced and self-tracking application.
The new Nigerian security e-passport has new features but retain previous symbolic ones. The standard passport comes in 32-page/5 year (@N25,000 or $130), 64-page/5 year (N35,000 or $150), and 64-page/10 year (@N70,000 or $230) versions. The new official passport comes in 32 pages at N15,000. The colours however remain unchanged – it is still red for diplomatic, sky blue for official and green for standard (ordinary) passports. President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo have already been issued with their e-passports on January 15th, 2019.
As Nigerians look forward to receiving their new security enhanced e-passport booklets come March 4th, let us rise as one to applaud this uncommon and visionary public officer.