Domestication Of Int’l Passport Production:The Pros And Cons By Sunday James
The Federal Government of Nigeria should give Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) the agency statutorily mandated by the Immigration Act 2015 the right of first consideration since the Service issues and administer the processing, procurement and production of the Nigeria international passport otherwise known as the E-passport by the Immigration Act 2015 Part II, Section 9 subsection (1) –(5).
The provision deals with the power to Issue, procedure for the issuance and types of Nigeria Passport, also section 10 subsection (1) –(4) which deals with certain offences in respect of passports.
Section 11 deals with liability of a guarantor signing application containing false declaration, Section 12 subsection (1) –(5) deals with a Non-Nigerian citizen attempting or unlawfully possessing Nigeria Passport, Section 13 subsection (1) –(2) which deals with cancellation or withdrawal of passports by the Minister of Interior, the above citations and assertions point to the fact that having introduced the agency responsible for issuance and administration of the passport and the process vested on the agency by the law establishing the agency and the power vested on the Minister of Interior with respect to passport withdrawal.
What is a Passport: A general definition states that it is an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder’s identity and citizenship, and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries. Another definition is that a passport is an official travel document issued by a government that contains a person’s identity.
A person with a passport can travel to and from foreign countries more easily and access consular assistance.
A Passport certifies the personal identity and nationality of its holder –Wikipedia.
A Nigerian international passport is your ticket to international travel. The passport allows or guarantees access to consular services and assistance while abroad.
The types of passport issued by Nigerian government are ordinary or standard Nigerian passport, Diplomatic, official, seaman and Economic Community of West Africa States(ECOWAS )Travel Certificates are all forms of passports used to travel either international or regional as the case may be.
Nigerian passport on record provides Visa-free access to 46 destinations outside Nigeria. Nigerians also requires Visa to enter 183 destinations in the world.
The Nigerian passport is ranked 94th place on the guide passport index. The Nigeria passport ranking relative to other global passports is calculated by adding the number of countries that allow Nigeria passport holders to enter without a Visa (i.e Visa-free countries) and those that allow Nigeria passport holders to enter by obtaining a Visa on arrival (i.e Visa-on-Arrival Countries) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA).
There are currently a total of 26 Nigeria passports Visa free, 19 Nigeria Visa-on –Arrival countries, 1 ETA destinations. Altogether, Nigeria passport holders can enter a total of 46 destinations either without a Visa, through a Visa-on-Arrival, or Via on ETA and a result the Nigeria passport ranks 94th in the world.
The country is 14th largest in Africa, with a surface area of 923, 769 square kilometers, over 200 million people making it the most populated country in Africa.
The passport is a security document meant to facilitate international travels; it must meet international standard set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and other regulatory bodies including the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The Nigeria Immigration Service established by the Act has a role to play in the specifics on the passport to be produced, the quality, texture and the regulation of its usage and issuance.
It will not be out of place for the National Assembly to allow Nigeria Immigration Service produced its passport In-house, at least within the Nigeria Immigration Service headquarters due its security and the need to domicile its production within the agency’s protective area and domain.
Nigeria Immigration Service can be empowered to produce a product she sells to the public , when the budget is allocated for the purchase of or transfer of those machineries for which contract was given to Iris smart technology to be transferred to the Nigeria Immigration Service to domicile all its operation in the Nigeria Immigration service for wholistic supervision, when production is done directly by the Nigeria Immigration Service it will eliminate the issue of backlogs, delay supply and shortage of booklets.
In line with elimination of delay in getting production done, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) should align the National Identity Number (NIN) process with the speed of the Nigeria Immigration Service to avoid delay caused by the supply of the NIN as one of the breeder document required to enable submission and production of the passport, this being a re-occurring issue where applicants will be waiting endlessly due to NIN not dropping due to network, but if the system has alignment between NIMC and NIS, it will reduce the bottleneck and enhance seamless service delivery.
The bottomline is the passport booklet itself should be produced directly by NIS with the support of experts pending when the officers will be trained on the operations of the machines for full scale production like what obtains at Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) where the military hard wares are produced by the DICON under the Defence Ministry.
Same can be done with the Nigeria Immigration Service granted autonomy and right to produce the International E-passport themselves as an institution not a third party with all expertise and technology transferred to the service.
Sunday James is the Comptroller of Immigration Service, Rivers State Command, Port Harcourt.