he Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) appears to have virtually hit a cul-de-sac in the performance of one of its major mandate: issuance of international passports.
This is because the Malaysian firm that produces the passports has stopped production and is asking for a contract review following the drop in the value of the naira.
For over four months, Nigeria Immigration Service has perspired in vain to end the anxiety of the expanding crowd of Nigerians awaiting the document in its offices across the country.
There is an acute shortage of the international passport booklets without which Nigerians cannot embark on their international travels.
Investigations by Daily Independent have revealed that rather than the N19,000 official price for the 64-page document and N14,800 for the 32-page document, applicants pay as much as N40,000 and N30,000, respectively, to secure the document.
It also came to light that the Nigerian document is being printed by a Malaysian firm, Iris Corporation, while some of the features of the electronic passport (e-passport) are produced in South Africa by SAPPI.
The chip on the passport is provided by NXP, a Netherlands Company that specialises in the manufacture of secure connectivity solutions for embedded applications.
The printing and binding of the passport booklet, embedding of the chip, as well as the lamination of the data page are done in Malaysia before final delivery to Nigeria.
Daily Independent learnt that the three passport offices of NIS: Ikoyi, Alausa, and Festac in Lagos, don’t have the document available for applicants, and the story is the same in Abuja and other states of the federation.
At the Ikoyi office, last week, one of the applicants, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Obiora, lamented that she had been processing the document in the past two months without success.
According to her, she had done the capturing about a month ago, but the officials at the passport office said the booklets were not available to be issued despite reportedly paying the sum of N32,000 for a 32-page document.
She, however, alleged that despite the scarcity claim by the officials of the service at the Ikoyi office, some applicants were getting the documents.
Also, Mr. Adedayo Olufeyisan lamented that he went through an unpalatable experience in the cause of renewing his international passport and that of his family members.
Olufeyisan explained that he had attempted to renew the passports at the Abeokuta office in Ogun State but that it took the entire family four months to complete the exercise.
He said he commenced the renewal process in December 2017 but got the document in April 2018.
According to him, one of the expired passports, with two years United Kingdom visa of one of his children, got missing at the immigration office in Abeokuta while the new one was being processed.
He lamented that up till the time of talking with Daily Independent the missing passport was yet to be found, and he expressed suspicion that the passport may have disappeared as a result of internal foul play by immigration officials.
He disclosed that he expended N128,000 to procure fresh passports for four family members at N28,000 instead of N14,800 each for a 32-page Nigerian international passport.
He said: “I went through a lot in trying to renew the international passports of my family, including mine.
“I started processing it in December 2017, and only got the documents in April of the following year.
“My intention to travel within that period was dashed, no thanks to the poor system.
“To worsen the case, the expired passport of one of my children, with valid United Kingdom visa of two years, got missing in the process.
“The passport had expired, but the visa was still valid. To date, they are yet to recover it and no one is supplying us with any concrete information as to the whereabouts of the document.
“Now, I still have to make an official report at the police station and even at the UK embassy as the history of the baby is required.
“It is unfortunate the way things are done in this country. We travel out and we all know how things are done there, but the reverse is the case in our country. I hope we will get it right one day.”
Further investigation by Daily Independent revealed that Nigeria had been printing the e-passport in Malaysia since 2007.
The Machine Readable Passport (MRP) formerly used by Nigerians was produced locally by the Nigerian Security, Printing and Minting Plc.
An immigration source in Abuja revealed to Daily Independent that the service was truly experiencing acute scarcity of the document.
He stressed that information received from the Malaysian firm was that there were no materials for printing of the document.
The source also said the firm was discussing an upward review of the rate of printing the document with the Nigerian government, citing fall in the value of the naira.
He said: “The service doesn’t have enough documents to issue applicants. Anyone that is telling you that there is no scarcity is lying.
“Why will Nigeria give the printing of its international documents to a foreign firm? It shows there is a shady deal in the entire process.
“MINT was initially printing the document for us, but since we migrated to e-passport, it was given to a Malaysian firm. Does it mean we can’t print it here?” he queried.
But when Daily Independent contacted Sunday James, Immigration Public Relations Officer (PRO), he debunked the claim that the document was in short supply in the country.
“There is no scarcity of international passport in circulation. Don’t put words into my mouth. I said there is no scarcity of international passport,” he retorted.
But investigation proved the contrary. At the Festac office, some of the applicants claimed to have been going to the service in the past two months.
The story was the same at the Alausa office of the service.