By John Ikani
The federal government has announced that travel passport applicants will now be able to track their passport application processes online to engender transparency in the process.
The portal – https://portal.immigration.gov.ng/passport/passportPaymentStatus – was unveiled by the minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in Abuja on Friday at the third and fourth quarters 2021 performance review meeting of the ministry and its agencies held at the NSCDC headquarters in Abuja.
He said that the purpose of the meeting was “to review the overall quarterly performance of the ministry against the agreed targets; provide a forum for strategic planning, discussions and policy recommendations and action; identify whether the ministry is meeting the expectations of the public it serves, ensure that decisions and policies are based on facts; identify where improvements need to be made.”
The minister said that passport administration remains a sore thumb through the lifetime of the administration while reiterating his commitment to leave lasting legacies like the introduction of the online tracking portal.
“Reports of extortion, inflation, frustration of applicants and subversion of due process continue to roll in. There have also been embarrassing reports of extortion of new intakes at their orientation and training programmes. There have been fire incidents in which our service could not be of much help while unsavoury accusations of wrongdoings in our custodial centres continue to embarrass the government.
“We recognise that some of these challenges are beyond your control. For instance, the breakdown of NIN servers makes validation of passport applicants’ biodata impossible,” he said.
He explained that Nigerians must know that if the names on their passport bio data and NIN do not tally, it would be difficult to prove that such names identify anyone.
“We must integrate NIN with passports and that’s why most of the delays are not caused by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). For as long as your bio data integrates with your NIN which is in the database of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), then you have no issue.
“If the database of NIMC cannot accept your bio data, then the issuance of a passport will be difficult,’’ he added.
Aregbesola also spoke on reports of prisoner swaps, which he said was almost an impossibility but warned that no such swapping would be tolerated under his watch, stressing that the government would further secure already properly-secured facilities of the Nigeria Correctional Services (NCS).
“Where convicts not in your prior custody were switched on the way to the custodial centres, there is little you could have done. However, there are catalogues of other sustained allegations across the services that continue to embarrass the Ministry.
“I will want you to take public perception management more seriously. What you have done is important, but what you get the public to see and believe about the Ministry and your services is of greater importance.
“If a user of your service is dissatisfied, that is negative publicity, to start with. Any act of corruption, incompetence or failure to provide excellent service amount to bad publicity. Public communication therefore begins with plugging these loopholes. This should be followed by a deliberate rigorous campaign to reel out the achievements of the ministries and the services across all media platforms and maintain good relationships with the media. Strategic communication and reputation management should therefore receive greater attention,” the Minister told the officers gathered at the meeting.