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Indication has emerged on why Nigerians both home and abroad are still finding it difficult to obtain an international passport from the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).
The foreign exchange crisis and some arrears of payments for the Malaysian contractor are the two major hiccups facing the availability of the document.
Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigration Service, gave the insights in an interview in Abuja weekend.
Mr. Babandede, who was appointed in May 2016, said the crisis started when contractors were left with huge differentials as the major world currencies suddenly appreciated against the naira, making it difficult for previously awarded contracts to be executed.
NIS boss disclosed that “The main causes came from the contracts awarded by the previous government,” noting that “Companies that supplied the booklets were paid in line with the exchange rates at the time.”
“You know the exchange rate has changed. But even if you produce the passports in Nigeria, most of the components to produce them will be brought in — the chips, the security papers and others.”
The Immigration chief said he’d since informed President Muhammadu Buhari of the crisis and a solution is currently being worked out.
“It is a challenge,” he said. “But we’re talking with the president and we will address the matter.”
Mr. Babandede played down the possibility of a hike in passport prices for now, saying the government will work to resolve the problem without making life more difficult for Nigerians.
“Something has to be done.”
Within the past one month, Nigerians have taken to the public with complaints about the difficulties they faced while trying to acquire a passport or make renewals.
Passport offices in Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan and other parts of the country are currently experiencing scarcity of booklets.
While Nigerians only began experiencing the scarcity at home in recent weeks, their compatriots in foreign countries have been grappling with the crisis for several months.
Mr. Babandede said touts and racketeers are making a kill amid the booklet scarcity.
“People are struggling and it had added to corruption and bribery,” he said.
Further investigations by Business Hilights revealed that 32-Paged booklets are the most scarce due to the high demand, while 64-Page booklet are relatively available everywhere.
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