The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has said claim of lack of enough passport booklets in the country is a lie and excuse usually peddled by corrupt officials of Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS to extort applicants.
Aregbesola said this in Oyo town on Tuesday while lamenting that few corrupt officials are undermining efforts of NIS to sanitise the passport issuing process.
The Minister who inaugurated an NIS passports front office in the town affirmed that the country did not, at any given time, experience shortage of passport booklets.
“One of the challenges facing NIS as regards passports application are the few corrupt officials of the service who are undermining the efforts of the service at sanitising process and bringing integrity to passports application.
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“These unscrupulous people are making the situation difficult by the day, if people did not tolerate them, they will not exist again.
“They are the one spreading the rumour that there is no booklets in order to continue to extort the applicants.
“We did not have shortage of booklets at any given time; we have enough booklets to meet the need of the people.
“There are more than enough booklets in our production schedule,” Aregbesola said.
He, however, appealed to Nigerians to stop patronising the touts and report any NIS officials manipulating applicants for money.
The minister said that NIS has been improving on its services, noting that only few countries could boast of the type of Nigeria passport, which he said “is one of the best in the world”.
He said that the challenges currently facing immigration service included dearth of offices to enrol applicants for data capturing.
The minister said that the challenges were gradually been tackled, especially with the construction of more passports front offices.
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Aregbesola said the inauguration of new office in Oyo Town would reduce the congestion in Ibadan centre.
He said that about 5,000 applicants waiting for data capturing in Ibadan centre would be offloaded to the new centre in Oyo, to reduce the challenge of waiting period of data capturing by applicants.
“There is a limit to the number of applicants any passport office can attend to in a day, thus making it impossible to urgently attend to all the applicants necessitating the long waiting period.
“Ibadan can only attend to 450 applicants in a day and that is why we need several locations like this one in Oyo,” he said.
The minister said that getting an international passport was the right of all Nigerians in Nigeria and those outside the country, assuring them that the service would not relent in its mandate of providing passports to all Nigerians.
Earlier, the NIS Comptroller in Oyo State, Mohammed Umar, said the new passport office would be an additional centre to that of Ibadan Centre, which had been serving people of the state and its environs for decades.
Umar said that Ibadan Centre had been overstressed due to high numbers of passport applicants.
According to him, this made NIS to consider establishing another centre in Oyo in order to effectively serve the people.
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He commended the minister for bringing the centre closer to the people and as well appreciated the people of the town for their contributions in ensuring the realisation of the centre.
In his remarks, the Chairman, Oyo Metropolitan Development Association, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, thanked the minister and the Federal Government for the project.
Ladigbolu assured the government of the supports and cooperation of the people of the town to officials of NIS.
He said that the centre would reduce stress being experienced by people in obtaining passports and boost economy of the town. (NAN)