As from February next year, passengers arriving into the country would not have any business with immigration personnel at the nation’s international airports, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has disclosed.
This follows the pending inauguration of e-gate with the first consignment being expected to be installed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
He also disclosed that there are no backlogs of passports at the moment, saying the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), acting on his directive, had been able to clear the backlogs of 204,232 passports and another 50,000 within two weeks and five days respectively.
Tunji-Ojo disclosed these on Friday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) during the opening of the newly renovated e-arrival wing of the airport undertaken by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
The minister said with the e-gate, contact with an immigration officer would have been completely eradicated at the airports.
According to him, this would be achieved with advanced passengers’ information and pre-profiling by immigration officers as it is done abroad.
In addition, he stated that the automation of the passport process which would commence before the end of this month would enable passport applicants to upload their documents online which would be verified while the applicants would be sent an email to come and receive the passport.
However, he stated that the e-gate is the crux of the reform aimed at facilitating passengers’ processing at the airport.
He said, “By February once you are in Nigeria and you are coming into the country, you have no business with an immigration officer unless you are a person of interest, you are of security concern. What we are doing is to make sure that we have Advanced Passengers’ Information and once we have that, we have your record before you come, immigration can do what we call pre-profiling as it is done abroad and once you come into Nigeria as a Nigerian, just tab your passport, look into the cameras, once you are good, you go. You don’t need an Immigration Officer to affect your life.”
He commended the NIS Controller General, Mrs. Carol Wura-Ola Adepoju and the retiring Deputy Controller-General in charge of Passports, DCG Saadat Hassan for ensuring the clearance of the backlogs in record times.
He said, “When I was appointed, I called both of them, the acting CG then and DCG Passports and I said it is unacceptable for Nigerians to see a passport as a privilege, it is a right and never again in the history of this country will any Nigerian right be seen as a privilege.
“I asked them how long will it take them, they said, ‘Oga give us one month’, I said no. If you can’t do it in two weeks, just submit your resignation letters, you are out and sincerely, 204, 332 backlogs were cleared immediately.
“And it would interest you, they did this without us as a government putting in a dime extra. We didn’t buy anything, we didn’t put in a Kobo and they cleared it. And within the two weeks we had another backlog of over 50,000 and at the end of the day within five days, we cleared the 50,000 and I told them never again must there be backlogs in Nigeria.
“And I can tell you as of today, by the grace of God, we don’t have backlogs. We are bringing a reform that would make Nigerians get their passports within 96 hours. From your date of biometric enrolment you should not wait for more than 96 hours before you get your passport, that is the dream, it is ultimate target, it is doable because by the time we automate the process, this is 2023, this is not 1993, why must you need to change your name? A woman gets married, she wants to get a passport, because her surname has changed, she needs to leave Kaura Namoda or Port Harcourt to Immigration Headquarters in Abuja… the risk of road, the economy, the discomfort, the inconvenience all these things will have to stop.
“We have said going forward, all you need to do, you make your application, you upload all your supporting documents, we have our investigative unit that investigates the genuineness of these documents and once they are confirmed, we will send you an email to go to the nearest immigration office to obtain your passport. Why must Nigerians travel kilometre for the sake of passports?
“We have also made sure that before the end of this December, the only reason to go to an Immigration Office would be only for your fingerprint, not for your picture, not for you to carry any supporting document, upload all these things online, this is the era of technology.”
The minister commended his Aviation and Aerospace Development Counterpart, Festus Keyamo for his support in actualising the proposed e-gate.
Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mall. Muhammad Kabir represented by the Director of Airports Operations, Capt. Mukhtar Muye said the renovation of the e-arrival “signifies more than just an upgrade of our facilities,” adding, “It is a symbol of progress, a beacon of our nation’s growth, and a clear indication of our commitment to seamless passage of passengers through our airport facilities.”
“It is a step towards making Nigeria a key player in the global aviation industry,” he added.
According to the MD, the MMIA is not just a gateway to Nigeria, but a hub to sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.
“With these renovations, we are sure that every traveller, whether Nigerian or international, will experience the warmth, efficiency, and spirit of excellence that our country embodies,” he added.