By Philomina Attah
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), on Thursday reiterated its commitment to ensure timely and efficient service delivery to Nigerians.
The Comptroller-General, Mr Isah Jere, represented by Mr Tony Akuneme, the NIS Public Relations Officer, gave the assurance during a press briefing at the NIS headquarters in Abuja.
The C-G assured that the service has adopted measures to clear the backlog of passport applications trapped by the COVID-19 lockdown.
Jere said he understood the frustration of Nigerians over the delay in getting their travelling documents, but said the personnel were working extra hours to meet the yearnings of Nigerians.
“What we are facing is a deluge, an upsurge in the number of applicants and it’s actually overstretching our facilities as well.
“Those at the passport unit are working beyond normal hours without being compensated.
“They literally do two shifts without being paid for it just to make Nigerians happy and to satisfy our applicants”, Jere said.
According to him, the upsurge in the demand for Nigerian passports in the last few months is not unconnected with the same upsurge across the globe of post COVID-19 pressures on migration.
“Currently, it takes an average of two years to get a facility that you applied for since COVID-19 started in some part of the country.
“Before now, it takes one to two months to get your document in Nigeria.
“So, I want Nigerians to know that acquiring travel documents has become a little bit more challenging because COVID-19 has put pressure on the travelling populace worldwide.
“For the period of 2020, all the applicants for Nigerian passports could not be attended to because we didn’t have physical contact with anybody.
“Most of our facilities were shut down during the lockdown, so all the applications that were built for 2020 were naturally moved over to 2021 and the ones for 2021 was moved over to 2022.
“So what we have presently is not necessarily shortage of passports, it is increase in the number of applicants, and it’s the same facilities that we had that we still have.
“We didn’t recruit new staff, we didn’t open new branches”, he said.
The C-G however said measures such as online application booking process have helped to stabilise the process and ensure crowd control.
“What that means is that, you don’t just show up for your passport anymore, you have to go online and apply.
“When you do that, the system gives you a date. So if the system gives you a bit of next month for instance, are you going to say immigration is delaying you?
“The system is working on the number of people that have applied, and remember, like I said, the number of applications have doubled or even tripled.
“This is a global factor that is not peculiar to Nigeria alone,” he added.
Jere cautioned Nigerians against offering bribe to any immigration officer to process their documents, saying anyone caught will be prosecuted.
“It is an offence to give bribe to our men, that is why we introduced online application in order to discourage direct contact with our men to avoid bribing them,” the C-G said. (NAN)