Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, in Lagos formally inaugurated the Alimoso Passport Front Office established by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in further implementation of passport administration reforms aimed at making the application, processing and collection of the Nigerian international passport more accessible and seamless for the travelling public.
He also inaugurated the newly-reconstructed office complex at the Alagbon Close, Ikoyi headquarters of the Lagos State Command of the NIS, which he said was part of the Federal Government’s commitment to provide conducive workplace environment for the workforce in order to enhance productivity.
Speaking at the well-attended opening ceremony of the Alimoso Passport Front Office at Sobo Bus Stop, Akowonjo, the minister said one of the reasons for establishing the front office in Alimoso was to decongest traffic at the Ikoyi, Festac and Alausa Passport Offices and to bring services closer to residents in the local government area and its environs.
Ogbeni Aregbesola, while expressing satisfaction with the tremendous progress made in easing the challenges in passport procurement over the last two years, explained that the newly-inaugurated passport front office would ensure travelling public in and around Alimoso area would not need to travel long distance before they could apply and obtain the Nigerian international passport.
A statement by the Service Public Relations Officer, Deputy Comptroller of Immigration (DCI) Anthony N. Akuneme, quoted the minister as saying that no less than additional 14 passport front offices would be established in the state because Lagos accounts for 50 per cent of all applications for the Nigerian passports in the country.
“We certainly need more of this in Lagos. This is because half of all passport applications are made in Lagos. At no time are less than 100,000 applicants from Lagos on the NIS portal applying for passports. We will therefore need not less than 15 of these front offices in Lagos alone, to be able to cut the application waiting period to one week,” he stated.
Ogbeni Aregbesola further said that due to funding constraint, government might consider public-private partnership arrangement to set up more passport front offices as part of other steps to deal with the challenges in urban centres where applications for passports are unusually high.
He said that while the private sector partners would provide the lounge, the offices would be manned by well-trained NIS personnel, stressing that having these offices would remove the bottlenecks and cut short the period of applying and obtaining the Nigerian passport as well as remove exploitation of applicants by racketeers.
The minister further announced that in the next few days, more passport front offices would be inaugurated in Daura, Katsina State; Jere, Zaria in Kaduna State; Ilesa in Osun State; Oyo in Oyo State and a special one at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos to cater to Nigerians in the Diaspora with expired passports to renew their passports or get reissue for the new enhanced e-Passport.
He reassured the travelling public that there was no shortage of passport booklets, saying that there was a firm arrangement with Iris Technologies Limited which ensures that at least 5,000 passport booklets were in NIS stores at any given time; even as he appealed to those planning to travel to start the process of passport application or renewal early to avoid what he called ‘panic-buying’ and to avoid falling into the hands of fraudulent persons who could hoodwink them into believing they could fast track the process.
Ogbeni Aregbesola warned the travelling public that neither he nor the Comptroller General of Immigration (CGI) could grant the waiver for express processing of the Nigerian passport except the President on the ground of extreme emergency medical for any citizen hose health condition required urgent travel.
Earlier in his speech, the CGI, Mr. Isah Jere Idris, stated that the Alimoso Passport Front Office was commissioned with a view to decongesting passport processing/issuing centres with overwhelming traffic such as the Ikoyi, Ikeja and FESTAC passport offices, while noting that the challenge with passport administration was about the process, and not the booklets.
“So, there is a need to continue to expand the infrastructure like what we are doing here today. We are privileged to be witnessing the commissioning and take-off of this Legacy Project by the Hon. Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbosola, the purpose of which is to decongest traffic at the Ikoyi, FESTAC and Alausa Passport Offices and bring services closer to indigenes of the largest local government area in Lagos State and its environs,” he said.
The NIS boss assured that the immigration service would continue to render efficient and effective service delivery to the public, while urging users of immigration services to avail themselves of the various digital platforms and channels put in place to reduce interference in the process of applying for the Nigerian passports aimed at eliminating touting, extortion and other vices.
CGI Idris warned that, “The Passport Office remains a no-go-area for touts, passport racketeers, fake breeder documents harvesters and all sorts of undesirable elements. I wish to warn that the long arm of the law and its full force will be visited on any person who by an act of commission or omission infringes on the Passport Offences as stipulated in Section 10(1a-h) of the Immigration Act, 2015.”
He also called on his officers and men at the Alimoso Passport Front Office to be above board in all their dealings with customers, stressing that any officer found wanting in acts unbecoming of his or her calling would face severe disciplinary measures.
Meanwhile, Ogbeni Aregbesola during the inauguration of the reconstructed complex at the state command charged officers and men of the NIS to embrace high maintenance culture, serene work environment and transparent service delivery to ensure people who come for any service were well-treated and decently.
He thanked the government and good people of Lagos State especially some illustrious individuals in the state who assisted in the reconstruction of the building.
In his remark, Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu, represented by his Chief of Staff, Tayo Ayinde, appreciated the minister for coming in person to commission the complex describing the gesture as a demonstration of strong commitment and leadership of the Buhari-led administration.
He expressed the state government’s appreciation to the reform efforts of CGI Idris, stressing that the NIS has continued to discharge its duties in the state professionally.
Among the dignitaries who witnessed the inauguration of the Alimoso Passport Front Office were the Senior Special Assistant to the Proseident on SDGs, Prince Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire; member, Lagos State House of Assembly for Alimoso Constituency II, Hon. Kehinde Joseph; Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Uzamot Akinbile-Yusuf; Chairman, Alimoso Local Government, Hon. Jelili Sulaimon; Chairmen of Local Council Development Areas; top politicians, traditional rulers; community leaders; artisans and market women.
It would be recalled that the CGI during his recent tour of immigration formations in Zone A comprising Lagos and Ogun states inaugurated a number of projects aimed at upscaling service delivery in passport and immigration administration in the country.
Among the projects were the sod-turning for the construction of the proposed Abeokuta Passport Office building and the commissioning of projects at the Alausa and Ikoyi Passport Offices respectively.
These steps were on the heels of the implementation of numerous reforms of the passport administration carried out by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service.
The reforms include the successful rollout of the new enhanced e-Passport with Polycarbonate Data Page and 25 security features; opening of centralised passport production centres in Ibadan and Enugu, which has helped to uptake availability of passport booklets; as well as improved online passport application process (portal and timelines).
Others are improved secured (online) payment solutions that eliminate the activities of middlemen, touts, racketeers and fraudsters; online appointment-based enrolment for passport after payment; Passport Application Tracking (PATs) solution; opening of passport front offices; sensitisation of citizens; establishment of passport contact centres and digital channels; institutionalising the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for passport processing; policy on admittance of Nigerians with expired passports; sequential passport application processing; and the launch of Diaspora Fast Track Service, which made it possible for holders of expired Nigerian travel passports in the Diaspora to renew their expired passports under two weeks at no extra cost.