Kenya, Nigeria take steps to clear huge biometric passport, background check backlogs
The Interior Ministers of Kenya and Nigeria recently gave ultimatums to their collaborators to ensure that the huge backlog of biometric passports in their countries is cleared within a time frame of two weeks. In Kenya, Interior Cabinet Secretary, Kithure Kindiki, also called for action on expediting the issuance of clearance certificates, commonly known in the country as good conduct certificates, issued by the Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Ten days to clear passport backlog in Kenya
Kindiki bemoaned the huge backlog reported in the issuance of these important credentials during a visit undertaken recently to the passport production office and the DCI where good conduct certificates are issued, saying things needed to change. He held working sessions with responsible officers during the visit.
For the case of passports, the government official asked that the backlog be cleared within a period of ten days for the more than 40,000 unissued biometric travel credentials, the Standard reports.
During the unannounced visit, Kindiki noted that despite the existing backlog, the situation has improved thanks to the work initiated at the level of the ministry. Measures so far include staffing increases and the elimination of groups that had delayed passport processing intentionally, in some cases.
To enable expedient issuance, Kindiki announced plans to open more customer care centers and passport printing sections. New equipment will be procured to replace malfunctioning printers and other machines.
In the case of clearance certificates, Kindiki and the DCI Director, Mohamed Amin, agreed that there is need to improve the situation.
They acknowledged that there have been complaints about delays in issuing the credential with a current backlog of more than 10,000 applications, writes Citizen Digital. Applicants have often complained of making numerous trips to issuance centers and staying on queues for hours without being served.
Also, as part of efforts to smoothen the process for issuing clearance certificates, the Interior Cabinet Secretary, during the talks with the DCI Director, also okayed plans to reform the system, notes Citizen Digital in another report.
Part of the reform plan is to replace the current Automated Palm and Fingerprint Identification System (APFIS) with a Multi Biometric Identification System (MBIS) which officials believe will be more efficient and time-saving.
It is hoped that the system upgrade will also take the daily production capacity of clearance certificates up from the current 4,500. The daily demand is said to be at 11,000.
Kenya’s plan for a new digital ID system is advancing with the a Parliamentary Technical Committee recently approving four texts related to the plan.
Nigeria clears 60k passports from backlog in four days after ultimatum
In Nigeria, the federal government says the immigration service (NIS) issued about 60,000 biometric passports in four days, shortly after Interior Minister Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo gave a two-week window for all unissued travel documents to be cleared.
This number is part of a backlog of over 200,000 passports which the Minister had, on September 6, given an order for clearance within a maximum period of two weeks, Per The Guardian Nigeria.
In a chat with his counterpart of Humanitarian Affairs, Tunji-Ojo said since his directive was given, there had been some progress on the ground, adding that “I maintain my words, those backlogs must be cleared.”
In giving the two-week deadline for the backlog to be cleared, the Interior Minister also said no Nigerian should henceforth have to wait more than two weeks to obtain a passport they applied for.
Nigeria is envisaging a passport domestication project as part of measures to deal with the perennial issue of backlogs, but lawmakers have warned against rushing the plan.