It is no longer news that in recent times, the acquisition and/or renewal of the Nigerian international passport has become a rigorous, stressful and expensive process. It has become a tiring and irritating affair that I have dubbed ‘Passport Palaver’. The protocols of acquiring or renewing the Nigerian international passport either for use as a travel document or as a means of identification is now a long and difficult procedure for first time applicants and for those seeking to renew their expired document. Most times the costs and processes involved makes acquiring a new one or renewing an expired one, a very daunting one for anyone who needs to.
Gone are the days when you could apply for and get your international passport within 7/10 working days. Since the inception of the electronic passport and the use of biometrics as a means of identification, acquiring new booklets or renewal of an expired international passport has become a tedious process which can take anywhere from 7days to 3months or more depending on where you apply from and what you are prepared to do to speed up the process.
These days only 2 out of 20 people who apply for an international passport booklet pay the true/actual fee prescribed by the government. This is because by the time they pay agents and proxies who promise to assist them hasten the process, they end up paying far more than the actual recommended fees. Also nobody trusts the process of using the online application portal or believes that “doing it yourself” will make the booklet ready within the recommended time. So to increase the chances of having your booklet ready in record time and also ensuring the process is speedy if not smooth most people rely on agents/proxies made up of serving/ex immigration officials or their agents.
These agents/proxies assist applicants with online application, payment, submission, approval and subsequent biometric capturing processes with the help of the officers. In various immigration zonal offices almost every immigration officer has several agents or people they work with. Without their help with these processes an application may take way longer than usual or necessary to be approved or processed for biometric capturing or even printing.
This means applicants no longer pay the exact fees designated by the government in their bid to fasten the process. Some pay fees as high as 40, 45, 50, 60 thousand Naira for a booklet of 32 pages/5yrs and as much as 90 thousand Naira or higher for 64pages/10yrs.
At times even paying these high amounts does not mean your passport will be ready in record time. The payment only guarantees you will get approved and that your capture/biometrics, will be scheduled and done hastily. Often times you will still hear that there are no booklets, that passports have not been printed yet due to lack of security minting paper in the country or that the documents are awaiting approval for printing or has been approved and now waiting to be printed or that they have been printed but awaiting distribution to the various divisions/zones.
In other countries, when you apply for an international passport you are required to fill out an application form online, make payment and schedule a date at the passport center closest to you for your biometrics. Once that is done your passport which is usually ready within 4/7 working days is sent to you via regular postal mail or express delivery depending on the stipulated choice you requested/paid for during your online application. If your booklet fills up and you require extra pages to be added on, you simply visit your embassy and it is done within 24/72 hrs depending on how urgently you need it.
But here in Nigeria it takes days, weeks and even months for a new passport to be acquired or for renewal of an expired one. It has become frustrating for frequent/regular travellers and/or anyone who wishes to acquire a new passport for use as a means of identification. Previously, passport renewal when your document still has unused pages was simpler because you just needed a renewal stamp on it, unlike now that you have to be issued a new document entirely.
The problem is that government sets guidelines and fees for international passport acquisition or renewal but these get lost in bureaucratic protocols and administrative bottlenecks. Also the rough economic situation in the country doesn’t help matters as most government agencies complain of not receiving their salaries on time or being owed months in arrears and so some resort to underhand means to earn extra income thereby putting the masses through extenuating processes of what should normally be an easy and stress free process.
I hereby appeal and call on the government to put measures in place to streamline the processes of applying for and acquiring a new passport document or renewal of an expired one.