The Federal Government on Tuesday unveiled an express passport processing centre, also known as “Premium Passport Processing Centre”, to fast track the process of obtaining a Nigerian passport.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, while unveiling the centre said it would offer specialised services to only Nigerians desirous to obtain their passports within 24 and 72 hours.
Mr Aregbesola said the centre was in response to the yearnings of the general public for the ministry and the NIS to devise additional ways that passport issuance process could be less stressful and more efficient.
He said the centre would offer value added service to all Nigerians, irrespective of their status; socially, politically and economically.
He, however, warned that services at the centre should be limited to the purpose it was created, while those interested in the normal service should patronise the conventional centres of NIS across the country.
“Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is our responsibility to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time without stress.
“The passport should be available in maximum of 72 hours of a successful application.
“Where there are issues, the applicant must be notified within 48 hours.
“A centre like this is necessary to reduce stress and by minimising human contact and this will eliminate the prospect of corruption.
“Further to the above, the sudden emergence of COVID-19 in our world today has not only affected our health, but it has also affected the way we do business and interact socially,” he said.
Mr Aregbesola said that as Nigeria continue to adjust to the ‘New Normal’, the NIS, by the initiative, was decentralising the passport issuing process by bringing it to the doorstep of Nigerians.
The minister said the commencement of the operations of the world class facility would offer Nigerians services of convenience and pleasure by taking away the hitherto stress in the conventional passport offices.
“This will also afford Nigerians the opportunity of getting their passports within 24 hours, at the high premium service and 72 hours at the ordinary premium service, albeit with added value and a little bit of extra cost,” Mr Aregbesola said.
He said that while the centre was in line with international best practice, it was also in conformity with the Executive Order 1 on the ease of doing business in Nigeria which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2017.
He added that the centre would also generate employment opportunities for Nigerians.
He said that the Maitama Passport Express Centre, MPEC, was a pilot scheme, adding that the goal is to have such facility in every county in the country.
While commending the leadership and personnel of the NIS for the laudable achievement and others recorded within the year, Mr Aregbesola warned the service not to rest on its oars in their services to Nigeria.
“Our world today is at the tip of technological revolution. Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind.
“It is in this regard that I urge you to continue to explore and develop innovative and technologically driven ideas aimed at repositioning the NIS to compete favourably with its counterparts all over the world without prejudice to national security.
“The NIS has no other choice but to rise to the challenges of our time and deliver efficient, effective and satisfactory service to Nigerians as nothing short of this will be entertained.”
The Comptroller-General of the service, Muhammad Babandede, said the inauguration of the Express Centre was a step towards solving the problems associated with Passport administration.
“The Maitama Passport Express Centre (MPEC) is therefore, established to provide expedite and guaranteed service for applicants willing to pay a premium for prompt and convenient service.
“The centre will be non-judgmental and has provision for large comfortable VIP lounge, refreshment, queue management system and other necessary facilities to ensure comfort and speedy delivery of quality service.
“This centre will have a dedicated National Identity Number (NIN), registration unit and cater to the complete passport issuance process from enrolment to production for only Fresh and Re-issue passport applications.
“Other categories of passport applications including change of data, replacement of damaged, lost/stolen passport and others shall continue to be processed at the Service Headquarters and other approved passport issuing authorities,” he said.
According to him, in line with its statutory mandate, NIS last week posted out the entire staff of Amana Passport Office for negligence and complexity in passport administration.
He added that many of its officers were dismissed, deranked and some are facing disciplinary procedures for corrupt practices and loss of passport booklets.
Babandede further explained that the service would, however, not rest on its laurels as its remain committed to evolving into the best Immigration Service worldwide.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that highlight of the event was a tour of the centre facilities by the minister led by the Managing Director of the IRIS Smart Technologies ltd., Olayinka Fisher.
NAN also reports that presentation of first passport processed and issued at the centre was carried out by the Minister to one Lawani Temitope.
Mr Temitope described the process involved as fast and pleasant, saying “I am happy to get my passport in less than 24 hours”.