Nigerians across the world are being reminded that every Nigerian International passports that is not of the new current e-passport will expire April this year.
Also, Nigeria e-passport issuing exercise which had been going on for almost four years will terminate on April 30 this year.
However, unless efforts are made to acquire the new passport, many citizens may be deprived of travelling to their various international destinations as the old passport would no more be recognised across the world.
The original set out date for the expiration of the current passport was last December 31, 2010, but the Nigerian government issued a further extension of four months following international outcry that the deadline was unrealistic due to the high volume of the works involved in the processing and the huge number of those still lining up for the new passport.
In the United kingdom, not less than 10000 Nigerians are still being expected to to add to the already high volume of applications being processed currently.
Mohammed Issa, head of the Nigeria high Commission, London Immigration Department speaking recently explained that even though major progress had been made on the issuance of the new e-passports, no stone was being left unturned in meeting the deadlines.
According to him, a team of Immigration officials from Headquarters of Nigeria Immigration service
(NIS) had arrived the United Kingdom to ease the backlog of application processing for the new passports.
He said the visiting officers’ services had commenced on March 16, this year, working towards the April 30 deadline for the passports.
He said the officers had been invited as special intervention teams following pouring outcries on the sufferings of many Nigerians in accomplishing the goal of the new passport and all the attending hardships in the London office of the Nigeria High Commission.
There had been complaints of slowness and untold suffering following long travelling from various cities across the United Kingdom and entire Europe as desperate efforts are made to obtain the new e-passports.
Circumstances of a major Embassy refurbishment in London also had caused so much inconveniences. The pressure according to Mr Issa has been eased as processing now is decentralized.
Now there are six locations for the exercise namely London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardif and Belfast.
According to him, the Nigerian High Commission has been collaborating with with Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom(CANUK) to mobilise and sensitise members on the exercise.
“It is expected that most prospective applicants of the e-passport will take advantage of the opened opportunity”, he appealed.
The effort he claimed was aimed at reducing the passport administrative pressures on both the high commission and the entire Nigerian community in the United Kingdom.
More than three million Nigerian are resident in the United Kingdom which had made the task more cumbersome due to daily influx of citizens across United Kingdom, attempting to beat the deadlines.
As the new passport was being introduced in 2008, about six major cities of the world were designated for the assignment of the new passport issuance. There had been considerable success attained in the process.
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 epassport 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.
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Migrants Watch in its drive to continue to inform, educate and enlighten Migrants wish to inform all Nigerians in Diaspora that the old Nigerian Passport (otherwise known as the Machine Readable Passport or MRP) which was initially scheduled to expire in December 2010 has now been extended to April 2011. It will be replaced with the Harmonized ECOWAS Electronic (Smart) Passport, otherwise known as e-Passport. This means that after April 2011, the only valid travel document will be the e-Passport.
What this means is that, The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) will – in keeping up with international best practice – authorize Nigerians holding the old Passport with valid visas to travel provided they also hold e-Passport. In other words, travellers whose old passport have valid visa after the deadline, will be required to also present the e-passport before they can be allowed to travel.
The machine readable electronic passport was introduced in 2007. And, according to the Nigeria Immigration Service, Its introduction was considered a landmark achievement as Nigeria was the first country in Africa to introduce the e-passport and was among the first 40 countries in the world to do so.
The embrace of the e-passport (according to the NIS) has become a major tool in the fight against trans border criminality as the e-passport contains the biometric details of holders thus making it easy for detection of persons travelling under false identities or compromised travel documents especially as the service is poised to introduce the PKD at our borders which has been approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The e-Passport issued by the Nigeria Immigration Service has, according to Mr. Chukwurah Udeh OFR the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, restored the dignity of the Nigerian and the integrity of the Nigeria’s travel documents. He also asserted that the credibility stems from the security features of the travel document as well as the whole process of issuance.
It is therefore very important that Nigerians apply for this e-passport in order to enjoy the maximum benefits accruing from this globally approved and much-respected electronic Passport.