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Nigerians hail biometric passport reforms, Kenyans grapple with issuance delays

Nigerians hail biometric passport reforms, Kenyans grapple with issuance delays
 

The move embarked upon by the current administration in Nigeria to reform what it calls a hitherto deeply flawed and inefficient passport system has met with approbation by some Nigerians who confess that obtaining a passport in the country is now easier than before. But while there is joy and excitement in Nigeria, there’s groaning and frustration in Kenya as citizens have seen serious delays in the issuance of the travel document in the past several weeks.

Nigeria passport applicants share pleasant experiences with new system

An article by Business Day details the experience of some Nigerians, including those living abroad, who say applying for or renewing a passport has become more seamless since the coming into force of reforms initiated by Interior Minister Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo.

Some of the notable reforms are the digitization of the passport application process and the reduction of turn-around time down to around two weeks – measures which some users say have gone a long way in easing off their stress in applying for the credential.

Recall that in the last quarter of last year, the Interior Minister had directed the implementation of certain reforms which led to the clearance of a huge backlog of over 200,000 passports in under three weeks.

“For a passport renewal for a family trip in December 2023, to my astonishment, the process was seamless, devoid of any clandestine demands. My passport was in my hands the next day, and in disbelief, I found myself frantically calling friends and family to share the unprecedented news,” the outlet quotes an Abuja resident as rejoicing after completing a passport renewal process with ease.

With the passport application system soon to be fully automated, which will enable biometrics to be matched online (contactless biometrics renewal), passport holders are optimistic about that renewing their credential will be relatively easy. The full automation of the online application system is set to go live by next month, says the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Wuraola Adepoju.

Although Ojo is quoted as saying in a recent interview that there are a few hiccups with the transition process with regard to applications, he remains optimistic that “in the next one or two weeks, we will have a near perfect system.”

Kenya officials say booklet shortage causing passport backlog

Across the continent in Kenya, a huge passport application backlog has accumulated in recent weeks, and officials have blamed the situation on the lack of booklets, Citizen Digital reports.

During a press briefing last week, government spokesperson Isaac Mwaura explained that the shortage has been triggered by a problem that slowed down the supply of booklets for 34-page passports. He also mentioned that the passport backlog is somehow linked to the halt in the production of the new generational ID card following a court order. The court injunction has also provoked an ID card issuance backlog in the East African country.

Notwithstanding, Mwaura is quoted as assuring that “the problem is being addressed.” But he advised that, in the meantime, applicants who are in dire need of the travel document and can’t wait further, can go for the 50-page version for which booklets remain in stock.

The 50-page passport, he notes, goes for a higher fee, at 6,050 Kenyan Shilling (roughly US$41). The 34-page passport costs Ksh4,550 ($31).

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Immigration services have been highlighting the country’s successes in the verification of passports through digital means.

Immigration Director General Evelyn Cheluget said the system, which also enables checks for foreign passports, should be fully embraced as it reduces cost and the time needed to verify travellers at borders, according to KBC.

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