Bickering follows Nigeria biometric passport issuance halt in UK, process ordered to resume
The decision by Nigeria’s High Commission in London to suspend biometric capture appointments for the issuance of enhanced biometric passports has met with various reactions from different stakeholders, namely the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the Ministry of Interior, and some associations of Nigerians living in the UK, according to different Nigerian news outlets.
Premium Times recalls that the suspension of the passport issuance in the UK was announced last Saturday by the High Commission, on ground that the issuance process was plagued by several irregularities including physical assaults on consular staff and other High Commission workers.
The country’s federal government launched the issuance of enhanced biometric passports in the UK in November 2021 with the aim of fighting fraud and facilitating the passport application process, having announced plans and a contract to do so earlier in the year.
The High Commission said it arrived at the decision to suspend the process after holding consultative talks with representatives of certain groups representing Nigerians in the UK, such as the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (CANUK).
Premium Times quotes sources in the Interior Ministry and the Nigerian Immigration Service as saying that the reasons advanced by the High Commission for the suspension of the passport issuance process were untrue.
The outlet cites an unnamed source in the Interior Ministry as suggesting that the High Commission is only unhappy with the new passport system because it closes up all avenues for embassy staff to extort money from passport applicants. The official tells Premium Times the High Commission had imposed a fee of £120 (US$157) on all passport applicants instead of the regular £80 ($105).
The report also quotes another official in the NIS as saying from November 2021 when the issuance process launched, to March 25, the High Commission has issued at least 5,200 passports from about 5,400 applications.
High Commission ordered to resume issuance
Daily Post in its report quotes NIS Public Relations Officer Amos Okpu as saying the Comptroller General of the NIS has called for the resumption of the exercise. The NIS is the body managing passport issues.
The official refuted the claims mentioned in the statement of the High Commission as reason for their action, saying they were more or less “an imagination” because the government has put in place all measures to ensure that the issuance process goes on smoothly.
Okpu said the Comptroller General had “directed the Immigration Attaches at the Mission to continue with the issuance of the enhanced e-Passports,” and that every necessary step was being taken in order to “eliminate all unnecessary bottlenecks with a view to maintaining quality and transparent service,” according to Daily Post.
Suspension to last just one week, applicants assured
Nigerians in the UK who had applied for the travel document before the suspension have been told that the blackout will last just for about a week, after which issuance will commence, writes Sahara Reporters.
The outlet quotes the Chairman of CANUK Ayo Akinfe as saying the association has been working closely with the High Commission on the matter. The official says all those who lost their appointments for biometric capture as a result of the suspension will be given new dates, and that the High Commission has expressed its commitment to quickly clear the backlog created by the halt.
These assurances notwithstanding, many Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction with the suspension, and have called on the authorities to do the needful by restarting service. Nigerians, under the umbrella of a group labeled Nigerians in Diaspora (ND), have qualified the move as wrong and unfair especially to applicants who travel from far-away places to the High Commission in London, reports Daily Trust. The group has appealed to the federal government to step into the matter in order to seek urgent solutions.
UAE, Bangladesh facilitate biometric passport renewals for residents abroad
While the process appears to be facing challenges for Nigerians in the UK, it is seemingly smooth for citizens of the United Arab Emirates who intend to renew their passports from outside their country.
The government has announced that applicants can now easily renew their passports thanks to a simplified procedure put in place, reports Gulf Today.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) says three documents are required for the process which can be completed in three stages using a dedicated page on the ministry’s website.
The documents include a copy of the applicant’s passport, a photo and a message indicating the reason for living abroad. The application process, the ministry says, begins with the applicant signing up on the website suing their digital ID.
According to the Ministry, the traveler page offers many other services other than just passport renewal applications.
In like manner, Gulf News reports that the Bangladeshi diplomatic missions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are able to process about 500 biometric passports every day.
This is part of an agreement between the two countries to lay down a legal framework to facilitate the safety and dignity of migration workers as explained by the Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE during an address on the occasion of the country’s 51st Independence Day.
Gulf News notes that there currently are about one million Bangladeshi expatriates working and living in the UAE.