E-passport will discourage theft, forgery –Moro

E-passport will discourage theft, forgery – Comrade Abba Moro (Minister of Interior

President Goodluck Jonathan recently launched the new 64-page e-passport at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, with a charge to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to present respectful pictures of the country before foreigners.

He said, “If our passport could be easily faked by criminals, then we will have problems.”

The new 64-page e-passport is specially designed for frequent travelers as well as businessmen will cost N20,000, while the one for minors will cost N8,750, while those from 18-60 years will pay N15,000 for the e-passport. Citizens older than 60 years will pay N8,750 for the passport, while change of data or of loss of passport will attract N20,000.

To change passport as a result of name change in marriage, divorce and deceased spouse will cost N8,750, while change of data on request will attract a processing fee of N30,000.

After the launch of the new passport, the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, in this interview after the launch, said with the inception of the e-passport in 2007, Nigeria became the pioneer country in Africa and the fiftieth in the world to use the electronic passport with enhanced security features.
More listed the advantages of the new 64 page e-passport, to include enhanced integrity of the Nigerian travel document,  takes care of low income earners and the aged, accommodates frequent travellers, forestalls identity theft and conforms with international standards.

What is the reason of the new 64-page e-Passport?

What Mr. President launched is the new 64-page e-passport for frequent travellers and particularly businessmen. Like I said during the launch, Mr. President in a conversation with me regretted the problems travellers face in the frequent update and change of passports. He asked whether it was possible like other countries to have passport booklets that contained more spaces, that particularly frequent travellers will stop frequenting the Immigration office for passport update.

For instance if you have a 10-year visa in a passport the leaflets for visa have been exhausted, you must inevitable obtain a new passport. But you must also go with the old passport which the 10-year visa has been embedded if you want to travel‎. You will find among Nigerian frequent travellers three or four passports at the same time. And so it became necessary that if we must change the trend if we must also solve the problem frequent travellers face all the time, we definitely need to put up an initiative that will make it possible for them to carry one passport with enough pages to make their travels less problematic.  It is so essentially particularly in a situation where Nigeria is attracting foreign direct investment; and at a time Nigeria desires to make frequent contacts with the outside world towards attracting foreign direct investment and this can only be anchored by Nigeria’s frequent travellers and businessmen, it became imperative that the time is now more than ever before for us to introduce an enhanced passport booklet.

But beyond satisfying the number of pages that we are talking about ‎based on the experience that we gained in implementing the July 2007 32-page e-passport, it also became necessary that in order to inject more integrity and credibility to the Nigerian green passport and the diplomatic passport that new levels of security fittings that are not easily manipulated by fakers will be in place. So today, the passport that Mr. President launched has enhanced security marks in them than the 32-page e-passport. Outside that, we believe that rather than Nigerians going to passport issuing centers to pay frequently for these passports, one passport that contains all the leaflets that they require for a long period will be very effective service delivery to Nigerians at very short notices.

I can assure you today that as Mr. President has charged, and a charge I have already relayed to the high command of Nigeria Immigration Service that the procurement of travel documents ‎particularly passports will take minimum duration.

Part of the problem in the passport leaflets filling up fast is because the immigration personnel at the airports stamp indiscriminately, leaving blank spaces, while abroad they stamp on the visa page. Why is ours done that way?

While ‎I will not say that what you are saying is not true, I want to assure you that the Nigerian Immigration Service is paramilitary service with proper education and training on passport stamping. I think it is unprofessional for any immigration officer to indiscriminately stamp passport because like you have rightly pointed out, those pages indiscriminately stamped are wasted. But this is a new era, this is a new initiative, an innovation to the whole process of processing travel documents for Nigerians by Nigerians and I want to assure that some of the imperfections in the processing of travel document in the past will certainly be addressed ‎by this new 64-page e-passport.

Are the varying prices of the passport not too expensive?

Well it can be cheaper there is no doubt about it and it comes in various categories. But at the same time you must also appreciate that some Nigerians are also entitled to some categories of passport. For instance as a minister, I am entitled to the diplomatic passport and I am equally entitled to the Nigerian green passport. While I am minister it is a matter of choice for me to either own my diplomatic passport alone until I finish my service or because I am entitled to the Nigerian green passport and diplomatic passport for ease of movement. And so because these passports are in various grades definitely they should attract different prices. The chip in the 32-page e-passport is certainly different for security reasons from the 64-page e-passport. There are enhanced security fittings embedded in the 64-page e-passport to ensure a greater integrity and incredible so that Nigerians who travel now with the green passport that is machine readable will be accorded more respect than a document that can easily be manipulated and whose fake counterparts are easily available. And so the whole process has been done in a manner that this document is an enhanced version of what we have in the 32-page e-passport even though they serve the same purpose.

Technology keeps improving and because these booklets have been produced at a time improvement in technology has been recorded, the new enhanced technology has certainly been embedded into this document. So it is more effective in terms of recognition as travel document and image of Nigeria outside Nigeria.

Why the differences in the security fittings in both the 32-page and 64 page e-passports?

Since we entered into contract with the service provider and production has started and given the experiences we have gained in terms of people trying to manipulate the fittings to get fake Nigerian passports, it has become imperative that new technology that has evolved since the introduction of the e-passport in 2007, are embedded in the new 64-page e-passport that has been introduced now. And so it is not really that there are basic fittings in our passports. If you look at it, transiting from 32 to 64 is a lot easier process by just increasing the number of pages from what we already have. So, it’s 100 per cent increase in the number of pages. But at the same time because we are talking about introducing it anew, we are also conscious of the fact that the old e-passport is subject to some level of manipulations by fraudsters. And so we have ensured that the new 64-page e-passport will not be easily manipulated or faked.

How soon can these be available especially to Nigerians in diaspora?

From today is already available. The problem that Nigerians have abroad is not really a problem of lack or unavailability of passport. The problem as Mr. President emphasized during the launch is that in most of our missions abroad we don’t have immigration desk officers. As I am speaking to you, out of our numerous missions abroad we have 27 missions with immigration desk officers who are properly trained and conversant with the issuance of passport and visas. In June, we posted additional 24 immigration officers. Of course, that is also determined by our constraints in budgetary allocations. But in the next couple of weeks we are sending additional immigration officers to our missions and consular offices that have recently been opened in China, Dubai and the rest of them. So as our financial conditions continue to improve we will continue to deploy more officers to our missions abroad. As we continue to train and recruit new officers we will continue to send these officers abroad.

We have performance indicator contract that we signed with Mr. President and part of our agreement with him is to reduce the time it takes to procure travel documents in Nigeria particularly the possession of passports from the 48-hours period we use to have ‎to a minimum of 24-hours. ‎Today, I can tell you the number of applications that Nigerian passports issuing centers across the globe receive and the passports they issue within 24 hours.

That is the more reason we are trying to introduce the fast track VIP arrangements in all our issuing centers so that while ordinarily you can procure your travel documents within the regular period established by the Nigerian Immigration Service, if you desire an emergency treatment which we call now VIP treatment, you will pay a little above what is the normal fee.  If you want your passport within five, 10, 20 hours you will get it. But if it is not an emergency you will get it within the stipulated period. By the time we procure this service which is virtually the last lap in the reform initiative in procuring travel documents, I am very sure Nigerians will be relieved of the long processing period for travel documents especially the e-passport.

 

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