The scarcity of the Nigerian international passport booklets has reached its peak, with applicants waiting for over four months to secure the travelling document in most passport offices of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) across the country.
Investigations by SaharaReporters also revealed that rather than the N19,000 official price for the 64-page document and N15,000 for the 32-page document, applicants pay as much as N40,000 and N30, 000 respectively to secure the document in any of the passport offices in the country.
Also, it was revealed that the Nigerian document is being printed by a Malaysian firm, Iris Corporation Nigeria Limited, with its parent company, Iris Corporation, in the Asian country. Some of the features of the electronic passport (e-passport) are produced in South Africa by SAPPI, while the chip on the passport is provided by NXP, a Netherlands Company that specialises in the manufacturing of secure connectivity solutions for embedded applications.
The printing and binding of the passport booklet, embedding of the chip and the lamination of the data page are done in Malaysia before final delivery to Nigeria.
Investigations by SaharaReporters revealed that the three passport offices of NIS — at Ikoyi, Alausa and Festac — in Lagos don’t have the document available for applicants.
At the Ikoyi office last week, one of the applicants who simply identified himself as Chris, lamented that he had been processing the document since April, but was yet to secure it.
Chris explained that he underwent capturing for the renewal of his document in May, but till date, he was yet to get it.
He told our correspondent that had had paid the sum of N30,000 for the renewal of the document, but the officials at the Ikoyi passport office said there was no booklet on ground to issue to him.
Chris alleged that despite the scarcity claim by the officials of the service at Ikoyi office, some applicants were still being issued the documents.
He said: “I was supposed to travel to Europe in June and I commenced the processing in April, hoping that it would be secured within two weeks, but here I am stilling battling with international passport.
“This is what citizens of other countries get within two working days, but the reverse is always the case with our country. I hope those in authorities will do the needful and save us from this embarrassment.”
Nigeria has been printing the e-passport in Malaysia for about 10 years, since the latter stage of Olusegun Obasanjo's presidential reign.
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 confided in our correspondent that the service was truly experiencing acute scarcity of the document. He said one of the information received from the Malaysian firm was that there were no materials for printing the document.
The source also said that the firm was discussing an upward review of the rate of the document with the Nigerian Government, citing the 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?”
When SaharaReporters contacted the service Public Relations Officer, Mr. Sunday James, he insisted there was no scarcity of the document in circulation in the country and declined to speak further.