No fewer than 6,471 passports processed in 2022 have yet to be collected from offices of the Nigeria Immigration Services, Ugamatv has learnt. This was according to the data obtained from the NIS.
The passports were part of the 8,611 uncollected batches in the Federal Capital Territory and the 148,000 awaiting collection nationwide.
They include standard, official, diplomatic, emergency travel certificates and refugee passports or conventional travel documents.
According to the NIS, the number of the uncollected passports was due to invalid contact details applicants submitted during the application process. It said this had made it difficult for its personnel to reach out to the owners and inform them about the status of their passports.
The NIS is the sole agency responsible for issuing passports in the country.
In June 2021, the service announced a new passport regime to collapse the processing time of regular passports into six weeks, from application to collection.
A month earlier, it suspended all new passport applications nationwide to clear the backlog of pending applications received before May 17, 2021.
Since then, Ugamatv gathered that the agency had processed at least 2.43 million passports, averaging 4,500 daily.
At the end of 2022, however, 148,000 passports had yet to be claimed in all its offices nationwide, and over 6,000 of those remain uncollected in the FCT.
This is despite deploying a team of senior officers nationwide to contact their rightful owners.
In an earlier interview with our correspondent, the spokesperson for the NIS, Anthony Akuneme, told our correspondent that passports whose owners could not be traced or reached would not be destroyed as the documents remained government’s property.
“We are not going to destroy them. They are still government’s property. They may be reused. We will have to discuss whether or not they are reusable.”
READ ALSO Senate Extends 2022 Budget Implementation To One Month After Buhari’s Tenure
He however explained that the Service was partnering with the National Identity Management Commission to ensure that new applicants filled in their correct contact information.
The partnership was greeted with criticism mid-March 2023 when it was announced that all passport applicants in Nigeria should pay N1,000 for the verification of their National Identification Number.
While announcing the development, NIMC’s Head, Corporate Communications, Kayode Adegoke, said, “This new arrangement is in furtherance to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy’s directive to streamline passport application, renewal and issuance processes.”
Nigerians within other African countries and outside the continent would pay $5 and $15 extra respectively.
Akuneme pointed out that the success of the new verification system depended on Nigerians providing correct information to the NIMC.
He said, “The bottom line is still sensitisation because most people using third parties don’t even know what is entered for them in their NIN, and when they come to get passports, the system is integrated in such a way that the passport cannot be printed if the NIN and the passport details are not 100 per cent the same.
“What I mean is, let’s say your name is Yakubu Mohammed Kazim. It will not go through if your NIN says Kazim Mohammed Yakubu. It is not the same person legally anymore let alone when the date of birth is different. Sometimes, the phone numbers are not complete or the e-mail address is not filled or is not working.
“So, we are frustrated. The Memorandum of Understanding we have with the NIMC will ensure that Nigerians no longer need to come to the Immigration office until their names have been updated or corrected.”