With less than one week to the expiration of all old Nigerian International Passports, thousands of Nigerians across the world are still struggling to obtain the new e-passports with hundreds more still clueless as to what to do to obtain theirs.
Reports from across the world are of tears and pains as many more are struggling to meet up with the deadline which is the end of April.
Logistics problems on the part of Embassies, ignorance of processing procedure as many are clueless and lack of support from many embassy officials are part of the problems according to EMNnews investigations.
The conclusion is that with the deadline still retained to be April 30, confusions, disappointment and problems from various parts of the world are imminent.
Nigerians across the world have been constantly reminded of the necessity to change to the new e-passport with the government warning on the dangers of forfeiting travelling plans if the passports are not exchanged for the new ones.
Issuance of the new e-passport had been extended last December after the government decided to shift forward the original expiring date of December 31, 2010.
The exercise had commenced in 2006 and after almost four years will terminate on April 30 this year.
Since the beginning of the year, a Save-Our Soul team of Immigration officials from Headquarters of Nigeria Immigration service had been dispatched to help Nigeria High Commissions offices across the world. Their activities have bee obvious in United Kingdom and America more than other countries.
The team of (NIS) arrived the United Kingdom to ease the backlog of application processing for the new passports and had commenced activities on March 16, this year, working towards the April 30.
Another team had been dispatched to various centres in America to ease the backlog.
Sources at the Nigerian High Commission in London had confirmed that the embassy has been collaborating with Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom(CANUK) to mobilise UK based Nigerians for the excercise.
But despite all the efforts made and constant appeal, many are still clueless about the new international passport orders and have not been really inclined for the new ones.
In the United Kingdom, many Nigerians have been curtailed because of the limited numbers of those attended to everyday which had been pegged at between 50-100 people.
“ With over three million Nigerians in the UK and only fifty people being attended to, how can the embassy meet up?”, queried an angry Nigerian who claimed during the week that he had been turned back two times because he lacked enough information about the application which must be made on the internet.
Reports from Asia are even worse with Nigerians complaining of hardships in getting to few designated centres for the exercise.
According to reports, many government in the Asian countries are already recognising the new e-passports and rejecting the old ones. It was revealed that many Asian countries are no longer granting visas to Nigerians without the new passports.
In India there had been a major breakdown of the e-passport processing machine and other complications among them lack of enough information about the designated areas for the exercise.
The experience had been much of gory tales with many overstaying their visa dates due to slow pace of their passports renewal and issuance in some embassies.
Similar scenarios are being faced in Hong Kong.
Many Nigerians seeking for visas from India Embassy in Bangladesh are constantly being turned down with many being requested to obtain official letters from Nigerian Embassy in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Nigeria embassy officials in the Asian country are ever unwilling to issue such letters giving one excuse or the other.
From our reader in Norway came this letter: “The Nigerian immigration officers are only concerned about the people living in the UK and USA as this are the only countries we read in the news that are being catered for the most. What about the people living in the Scandinavian countries? Some officials came to Norway only once and they left without making up to 50 passports”. They promised that they would be coming back because the machine they were using broke down. The officials never shown up again”, “We are still waiting and they are yet to take further actions. We are in real trouble as to how to obtain our new passports, the writer who described herself as Elizabeth Emmanuel lamented.
“Many Nigerians in the Scandinavians are stuck because the machines issuing the new passports are not available”, Elizabeth further said, adding:”There are a lot of people in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland do not have the new passport because the embassy’s around them do not have the machines”.
“We are crying everyday here in Australia. No Machine, No Passport. They keep telling us that they are waiting for machine to arrive from Nigeria. Many of us here are carrying expired passport and this is not our fault as the embassy would neither extend the old one nor issue the new one due to lack of e-passport machine”.
“Please, we are begging you to look into it. All countries in the pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Solomon Island, Fiji, Samoa and many more) are under Australia and no machine is there in Australia to issue new passport to us”. Please help us here” Sam wrote in from Australia adding that a greater percentage of Nigerians in Australia are without the new passport. He appealed: “Please help us, we are in trouble”
“That the Nigerian Bar Association would allow this type of nonsense to go on without filing a simple lawsuit to force the Government to do the right thing for it’s citizens is amazing!!! How do you arbitrarily force people to renew unexpired passports. My passport will expire in 2014 and I can’t wait to sue any one that will prevent me from using a perfectly legal and current passport to travel. I just hope for god’s sake some one must ease things for us” opined Paschal who wrote in from Canada.
In a national and International appeal last January, the Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Mrs. Rose Uzoma, warned Nigerians not to see the four months extension of the deadline for the phasing out of the old machine readable passport (MRP) as an opportunity to abandon the process of acquiring the new e-passport.
She gave the advice in Abuja just as Federal Government extended December 31, 2010 deadline for the withdrawal of the old passport to the end of April 2011.
Uzoma told Nigerians then not to wait till the last minute to get their passports and had appealed to those who were yet to obtain the e-passport to do so as time was running out.
She appealed to Nigerians not to create a last rush scenario that would create chaos which
could portray the government as ill-prepared for the exercise.
“The NIS is well equipped and fully prepared to offer diligent and expeditious services to Nigerians willing to process their e- passports in all passport offices across the federation,” she said.
The Immigration boss also called on applicants to avoid inducing officers of the service to attract preferential treatment.
The immigration boss then also assured that the NIS would resolve to ensure that Nigerians in the Diaspora would have theirs processed within the extended time frame, assuring of meeting the deadlines. The visiting SOS officials are part of the pledge she made then to ascertain that all Nigerians from the Europe axis get their new e-passports. Such pledges have become an exercise in futility.