Controversy Trails Suspension of E-Passport Issuance By Nigeria High Commission in London - PREMIUM TIMES
Officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service and the interior ministry, have described the Nigeria High Commission's claim as untrue.
The suspension of the biometric capturing of the new enhanced electronic-passport by the Nigeria High Commission in London, the United Kingdom, is already generating controversy.
Findings by this newspaper have confirmed that the concerned government agencies are already working behind the scene towards addressing the looming conflict.
A source at the interior ministry, who craved anonymity for not having the authority to comment on the matter, alleged the high commission's office of kicking against the new passport regime "because it abrogates the hitherto existing underhand dealings where applicants pay as high as 120 pounds as service charge."
A spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry did not respond to enquiries on Monday.
At the weekend, the high commission's office issued a directive for the suspension of the enhanced e-passport processes, citing confusion created allegedly by the linking of the National Identity Number (NIN) issued by the National identity Management Commission (NIMC) with the NIS system.
In a statement issued on its website and dated Friday, March 25, 2022, the Commission said the suspension would take effect beginning from Monday, March 28, until the challenges are resolved.
The Commission said the deplorable situation in passport issuance and renewals shortly after the coronavirus-induced lockdown was eased had degenerated into tension which, it said had been "responsible for multiple ugly incidents recorded in the Mission, thus exposing the entire staff to danger," including breaking of vehicle screens, knife attacks on vehicles' tyres, assaults on staff, and general insecurity in the Mission's premises and its surroundings.
It, however, noted that in May, 2021, measures were put in place to restore order, and that the measures had received cooperation from Nigerians in the UK. "The smooth operations widely acclaimed by Nigerians existed till 22nd November 2021."
The statement reads in part; "At the launch of Enhanced E-passport operations in London on 23rd November 2021, Nigerians in the United Kingdom were quite optimistic of improvements in service by the Immigration Section, on the issuance of passports.
"However, the issuance, renewal, and operations since the introduction of the new Enhanced E-passport have been fraught with many challenges, particularly on the issuance of National Identification Number (NIN) and the appointments for biometrics capture.
"The Mission feels and shares in the pains of teeming Nigerians since the launching of the new Enhanced E-passport scheme in the United Kingdom by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. The staff of the High Commission are currently being assaulted on a regular basis on account of attendant frustrations, particularly by Nigerians who travel long distances from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham, etc to the Mission in London without positive resolution of their respective consular issues."
The Commission said the decision to suspend the process was taken after a meeting with "relevant stakeholders" including "members of the Nigerian Council of Elders in the UK, comprising Pa Adebayo Oladimeji, Arc Otunba Mobolaji Falase, Dr. Boma Douglas, Chief Fred Ajiduah, in concert with the Chairman of Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (CANUK) - Mr. Ayo Akinfe, leading the Executive members of the Association. Nigeria High Commission was led to the meeting by the High Commissioner... "
"Consequently, the biometrics capture on the new Enhanced EPassport at the Nigeria High Commission in London is hereby suspended with effect from Monday, 28th March 2022, until these challenges are resolved, in the interest of the Nigerian Community in the United Kingdom. Whilst we regret the inconveniences the suspension may cause, the Emergency Travel Certificate window and visas for British- Nigerians are available as a stop-gap measure," the statement concluded.
But officials at both the Nigeria Immigration Service and the interior ministry, who do not want to be quoted, have described the Nigeria High Commission's claims as untrue.
The media aide to Rauf Aregbesola, interior minister, Sola Fasure, denied the claim of inefficiency of the new enhanced e-passport issuance and renewal system.
He, however, declined further comments on the matter, saying the two concerned ministries will iron out the differences in the interest of Nigerians.
"I don't want us to drag this matter. You can go and conduct your investigations and see if the new system is working or not. But I can assure you that whatever the issues are, the government will resolve them in the interest of Nigerians."
Also speaking, a high-ranking official of the NIS, who said this newspaper should await official statement from the agency, and declined to speak on the record, however, offered some insight when he alleged that the new enhanced e-passport has stopped the high commission from generating "illegal funds under the guise of imposing service charge."
"The truth is that before now, the Commission was charging 120 pounds as service charge for a passport worth 80 pounds but since the introduction of the enhanced e-passport, that was no longer possible. We knew there would be resistance because embassies rely on these illegal revenues to survive since they claim they are not properly funded," the official said.
The source added that only the comptroller-general of immigration is empowered, apart from the President to take such a critical decision on travel documents.
The official added; "Even the stop-gap documents they want to be issuing do not belong to the Commission. It is the responsibility of the NIS and so how can you charge fees for what you don't own?"
Statistics of applications
Another official of the Nigeria Immigration Service, who also does not want to be mentioned, saying the development may degenerate into inter-agency conflict, said between November 2021 when the e-passport was launched in London and March 25, 2022, a total of 5,400 applications were received and that 5,200 had been processed and delivered.
The source said the new e-passport enables the applicants to engage in the process personally and that it is by appointment, which the official noted is the standard practice globally.
The source said; "Passport issuance globally is like visa issuance, it is on an appointment basis. But there are clearly provisions for emergency situations. The delay in the 200 cases that were not delivered are mainly due to the synchronisation of NIN with our database because that is what the government wants.
"It is to the advantage of the country that we have a single identity number. We agree that there could be teething problems but these issues are not insurmountable, 200 cases out of 5,400 are very minimal and we are resolving them as well."
The source cited the situation with the registration for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), saying JAMB had in the past jettisoned the use of NIN over complaints but that it later adopted it since it is the government policy.
"Today, I am aware that even with the adoption of NIN, JAMB was able to register 1.8 million candidates within record time without issues. Such is the system and I hope the Commission will see reason and stop extorting Nigerians," the official added.
Foreign affairs ministry yet to respond
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry, Francisca Omoyuli, said she will find out the details of what transpired and react appropriately on the allegations and other issues raised.
She said since a short message detailing the information requested had been sent by the reporter, she would inquire and revert.
However, many hours after her promise, there is yet to be any response from the official as of the time of filing this report.
Abuja: US embassy lists conditions for ‘no-interview’ visa renewals - PUNCH
BY Kayode Oyero
The United States Embassy in Abuja says it will begin processing certain non-immigrant visa renewal applications without requiring an interview starting from March 30, 2022.
The Embassy’s Senior Public Affairs Specialist, Aishah Gambari, made this known in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement was titled, ‘U.S. Embassy in Abuja Begins Interview Waiver Program for Certain Visa Renewals’
The statement said there would be no interviews for visa renewals where:
“The visa is B1/B2, F, M, J (academic only), H, L, or C1/D (combined only);
“The applicant previously received a U.S. non-immigrant visa that expired within the last 24 months, or will expire in the next three months from the date of application;
“The previous visa was issued in Nigeria;
“The previous visa was a full validity, multiple entry visa;
“The applicant is applying for the same visa classification as the prior approved visa;
“The applicant has never been arrested or convicted of any crime in the United States (even if they later received a pardon or waiver);
“The applicant has never worked without authorization or overstayed in the United States; and
“The applicant has not had any significant life changes.”
The Embassy added, “A parent’s qualifications cannot extend to a child. The child must independently meet each requirement. The number of applicants accepted for the Interview Waiver Program may initially be limited.”
It urged qualified applicants seeking to utilise the no-interview programme to set an appointment for document review online, adding that applicants won’t have access to their passport until completion of processing which may be up to two months.
The Embassy also said application fees would remain at $160 for non-petition-based non-immigrant visas, and $190 for petition-based non-immigrant visa categories.
Kaduna airport, train attacks: Nowhere is safe again in Nigeria - Reps - VANGUARD
By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja
Miffed by the recent twin attacks on the international airport and train in Kaduna State, members of the House of Representatives, Tuesday, said that Nigeria had been made unsafe by terrorists.
Their submission was sequel to a motion titled “Urgent Need for the Federal Government to Investigate the Recent Attacks at Kaduna International Airport and Reinforce Security Surveillance and Personnel in all the Nigerian Airports” presented at the plenary by chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon Nnolim Nnaji who also represents Nkanu East/West Federal Constituency of Enugu State.
In the motion, Nnaji recalled that about a year ago, armed bandits attacked the staff quarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), at the Kaduna International Airport and abducted about 12 persons.
He noted that on Friday, 25th day of March, 2022, there was a horrific armed banditry attack at the Kaduna International Airport, culminating in the death of a security guard of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency NAMA.
He however stated that a combined detachment of the military and other security gencies were deployed to the airport to confront the heavily armed bandits, numbering over a hundred.
“The military personnel at the airport were timeous enough to repel the attack, chased away the bandits and seized some their motorcycles.
“Unauthorized persons have been using the route behind the permeter fence of the airport, until the recent attack, which unfortunately resulted in the loss of a life.
“The Managing Director of NAMA, Matthew Pwajok, noted that, though the bandits attacked the navigational aids in the airport, killed the watchman while the technical staff ran for safety, the military were alerted and they responded swiftly to secure lives and properties at the airport.
“The armed banditry attacks at Kaduna International Airport may escalate to other airports across the country, if not checkmated.
“No one is safe to travel by air if positive steps are not taking urgently to safeguard our airports from banditry attacks, considering the international standards on airport security management as outlined by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)”, he said in the motion.
Speaker further on the issue, Nnaji said that the implication of the attacks was that international flights may stop coming into the country.
“What it means is that the only means of transportation now to Kaduna is road. Definitely, if it happens in other places; if they start attacking our airports, the implication is that even the international airlines will stop coming to Nigeria. That is the implication. And the premium on our local airlines – the premium on their insurance – will go up and the implication is that (the cost of) air tickets will double. That is why I am asking that the leadership should come to our aid to see how we can solve this problem. It is not just a committee issue; it has to do with the entire House led by the leadership, to see how we can unravel this situation”, he said.
Contributing to the motion, Hon. Aminu Suleiman (APC, Kano) attributed the sad incident to collective failure of the security agencies.
“I never believed that this incident really happened. It surprises me and truly troubles me as a person that this thing could happen in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This thing that happened – that truly happened – actually challenged us as a nation.
“I think these bandits have taken these deliberate killings to the sovereignty of this country, far beyond what we can comprehend. So, we must accept collective failure. We must present a very formidable front as a House to ensure that these things do not happen again. And for it not to happen, somebody somewhere must be held responsible.
“It couldn’t have just been ordinary, that these people drive through the cities and challenge the security of our airport. It is not only reprehensible but also a display of general ineptitude on the part of the security (agencies) responsible for security in our airports. My vote is available for any action that will be taken or needed to be taken.
“We need to act very patriotically and ensure that somebody is held responsible and punished severely for this incident to serve as a deterrent. The road is almost becoming impossible. Rail is being threatened.
“Only a few of us go by road now – the comrades in the country; my colleagues and others fly. Therefore, if the air is also not safe, ordinarily I would have jubilated that they are coming to join us but we need them to be alive”, he said.
Similarly, Hon. Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa Ibom) said if terrorists can attack sensitive transport infrastructures, it meant that nowhere was safe.
“It is saddening that we can have a security breach to a point of infraction in the airport. It is quite saddening! We have had our train and our rail affected just some few hours ago.
“We seem to be involved in so much political activities as of present but there are critical issues affecting the lives of Nigerians. We seem to be involved in 2023 (general elections).
“My call this morning is for every one of us from the executive to the legislature, from the federal to the state and local governments, to come together for us to proffer solutions and provide security for Nigerians, which is the primary objective of government.
“Those who used to go to Kaduna by road became challenged because of kidnappings on the Abuja-Kaduna road. Then, the railway and trains came but they are being challenged today.
“Nigerian Railway Corporation had issued a statement that it was going to suspend the activities along that line. We were challenged some few days ago, for us to have an infraction at the airport, which means no way is safe. If our roads are not safe; if our rails are not safe; if our airports are not safe, then it calls for us to suspend everything political to begin to address the critical needs of Nigerians.
“If we don’t have Nigeria, we might not be having elections. If we don’t better the lives of the people who we are seeking to govern, then we would have failed totally”, he said.
“On his part, the deputy minority leader of the House, Hon. Toby Okechukwu said the country was seriously bleeding.
“As pointed out, this time actually is not the time to play politics or opposition or try to say you are in government. This is an existential threat to all Nigerians. It means Nigerians are on the run. It used to be cars that were attacked and (occupants) kidnapped by bandits.
“Now, they have attacked our airport. They started about a year ago; they have attacked the NDA and a few hours back, they attacked our rail line. Nigeria is hemorrhaging; we are under a serious challenge.
“It means that if they had anything to use against the aircraft, they would have used it. I believe we are under a serious threat”, he said.
To this end, the House while adopting the motion urged the leadership of the House and Chairmen of relevant Committees in House to invite all National Security Adviser, Minister of Defence, Chief of Air Staff, DG DSS, IGP, aviation minister, DG NCAA, MD FAAN, MD NAMA, GM railway corporation, minister of transport for explanation
It also urged the Federal Government through the National Security Adviser (NSA), Chief of Defense Staff, the Inspector General of Police and heads of other security agencies, to set up a special security task force on airports across the country.
It directed the Federal Ministry of Aviation, FAAN and other security agencies to put a more proactive measure in securing our airports, including providing a modern security surveillance equipment on the perimeter fences in all our airports.
Ruling on the motion, the presiding officer and deputy speaker of the House, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase directed certain committees to be part of the investigation which may commence Wednesday.
“The committees that are supposed to work alongside with the leadership of the house are aviation, national security, police, army, airforce, defence and land transport.
“We beg that the invitation be sent as soon as possible. Hopefully, we would start the meeting as from tomorrow”, he said.
Air Canada boosts capacity as travel demand recovers - YAHOO FINANCE
Air Canada (AC.TO) said Wednesday it will more than double its capacity for the year as travel demand recovers and domestic airline competition heats up.
The Montreal-based airline said it will boost its full year seat capacity by 150 per cent compared to 2021 levels as COVID-19 restrictions ease in Canada and around the world and demand ramps up.
But a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels will take longer, as this year's capacity levels represents 75 per cent of what Air Canada flew in 2019. The airline said it expects capacity to reach 95 per cent of its 2019 levels by 2024.
"The overall recovery is indeed getting closer," Air Canada's chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette said at the company's annual investor day on Wednesday, adding that the airline will add new routes this year flying out of its main hubs in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
"We predict to be close to full recovery by 2024. This is buoyed by a strong domestic recovery, a strong rebound in the visiting family and relative market, and the overall pent up demand for leisure travel," she said.
"The recovery in business segments or business markets will lag. However, we anticipate a strong strong rebound in 2023."
Air Canada is also bracing for increased competition in the domestic market, which has seen the several smaller carriers ramp up capacity through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flair Airlines, which bills itself as an ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC) that keeps base fares low while charging for extras including carry-on baggage, has aggressively expanded in Canada in recent years. In fact, Flair has more than doubled its seat capacity compared to pre-pandemic levels. WestJet's Swoop was the only other Canadian airline to see its capacity increase compared to 2019, with its flights and seats increasing by 11 per cent in 2021 compared to 2019. Lynx Air, the country's newest airline that will also operate as a ULCC, will begin flying in Canada next month.
"We know that the environment now is extremely competitive. We can see the competition is intensifying here," Guillemette said.
How Air Canada will respond to the increased competition remains to be seen, but Guillemette said that the airline is in the midst of a "transition period" and assessing the strategy behind its low-cost, leisure subsidiary Rouge.
"We are currently assessing the various alternatives of how best to position Rouge, not only in the leisure space, but possibly even in some ultra low-cost market segments," she said.
"We are now in the process of really looking at the mission for Rouge and how we best want to proceed in the years to come."
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.
Naira stable after touching one-month low - PREMIUM TIMES
The currency maintained stability at the NAFEX window.
Naira maintained stability against the U.S. dollar at the official market on Wednesday, after recording losses for three straight days.
According to data published by FMDQ where forex is officially traded, the currency closed at N417.00 per $1 at the close of business Wednesday, the same rate it exchanged hands with the greenback currency on Tuesday.
This is the lowest official rate the naira has traded at the over-the-counter market this month.
The local unit experienced an intraday high of N410.00 and a low of N444.00 before closing at N417.00 on Wednesday, the same range naira has been trading at the market sessions since the commencement of trade this week.
Forex turnover increased slightly by 50.60 per cent with $147.41 million posted on Wednesday against the $97.91 million recorded at the close of business Tuesday.
Black market dealers in Uyo exchanged the naira at N584.00 and sold at N587.00 to a dollar on Wednesday, the same rate it has been trading since Monday.
Similarly, Abuja street market exchangers said the naira was exchanged at N585.00 and sold at N587.00 to a dollar at the close of business on Wednesday.
NDLEA Arrests 5 Members Of Airport Drug Syndicate, Recovers N19.8m Cash - NEW TELEGRAPH
…Mkpuru Mmiri cook, lawyer arrested
Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), have arrested a fleeing drug kingpin heading a syndicate operating at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos and six other members of his gang. Meanwhile, professional methamphetamine (Mkpuru Mmiri) cook and a lawyer were also arrested in Owerri, Imo State and Ado Ekiti in Ekiti state respectively.
The agency spokesperson, Mr.Femi Babafemi in a statement yesterday said the Lagos airport drug syndicate who were behind the smuggling of 1, 584,000 tablets of Tramadol seized on Tuesday March 15, by NDLEA operatives in collaboration with Aviation Security (AVSEC) and Customs service personnel at the airport. The seizure includes 17 cartons of 250mg Tramadol branded as “Tamra” weighing 669.70kg and five cartons of 225mg Tramadol under the brand name “Royal” with a gross weight of 217.15kg.
Babafemi said the psychotropic substance, which was imported into the country from Pakistan was smuggled through the airport tarmac using one of the vehicles of the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) and was intercepted at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Personnel Yard. Two suspects: identified as John Mowa, a SAHCO driver and Nyam Gazu Alex who is a security guard with the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) were initially arrested in connection with the seizure. He said further investigations by NDLEA operatives however led to the arrest of five other persons involved in the crime including the ringleader, Yunana Fidelis who fled Lagos to Kaduna the moment their lid was blown open. Others include: Adesanwo ; Owoseni Temidayo; Fasoranti Shola and Bamigbade Jonathan.
It was gathered that Fidelis who is also a staff of NACHO had escaped and fled to Kaduna after depositing Nineteen Million Eight Hundred Thousand Naira (N19, 800,000.00) cash with a BDC operator to be paid later into his bank account. After tracking him for days in Kaduna, on Friday March 25, Fidelis immediately relocated to Abuja where he was eventually arrested by NDLEA operatives at 7pm on Sunday March 27, while he was trying to collect One Million Naira (N1, 000, 000.00) cash from an undercover agent who posed as a BDC operator.
In addition to recovering the cash Fidelis deposited with the BDC operator in Lagos, the Agency had also placed a post no debit order on his identified bank accounts. Also, arrested was a professional methamphetamine (Mkpuru Mmiri) cook, one Reuben Bekweri, 34, arrested in Owerri while trying to distribute a kilogram of the illicit drug he cooked and packaged in seven nylon sachets in the Irete Area of Imo State capital on Saturday March 26. Meanwhile, in Ado Ekiti, narcotic officers on Monday March 28, also arrested a 42-year-old lawyer, Mr. Mayowa Oluwanisomo, in Zone 4, Embassy Island, Moferere area of the Ekiti State capital following credible intelligence that he deals in psychotropic substances. A total of 11, 570 tablets of Tramadol weighing 7.3kilograms were recovered from him when his residence was searched. He admitted ownership of the drug exhibits, adding that he graduated from Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti and Abuja campus of the Nigerian Law School in 2016. Commending the operatives, the Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brigadier General Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) appreciated the officers and men of MMIA, Imo and Ekiti state Commands for sustaining the offensive action against drug cartels in their respective areas of responsibility.
British Airways pilot jailed for lying about his flying experience on CV to get job - SKYNEWS
Craig Butfoy put in false claims to acquire work with British Airways subsidiary BA CityFlyer - based at London City Airport - as well as former Irish regional airline Stobart Air.
A pilot has been sent to prison for lying about his flying experience to get a job with British Airways, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.
Craig Butfoy put in false claims to acquire work with British Airways subsidiary BA CityFlyer - based at London City Airport - as well as former Irish regional airline Stobart Air.
He continued working for the airlines for two years, between April 2016 and March 2018.
Butfoy, from Kent, entered false details and altered entries in his flight logbook so that he could appear more experienced than he was, the court heard.
He pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud and on Monday was handed a 12-month prison sentence at Snaresbrook Crown Court, east London, the CAA said.
Jonathan Spence, general counsel at the CAA, said: "The Civil Aviation Authority's prosecution and the sentence imposed show that offences of this kind are taken very seriously by the Civil Aviation Authority and the courts.
"Pilot integrity is at the heart of aviation safety and we will take all steps necessary to maintain that position."
Details outlined in court documents included an allegation Butfoy falsely claimed to have flown 1,610 hours as a captain in a job application submitted to BA CityFlyer.
He is also understood to have given false details on his CV, such as stating he had held a private pilot's licence since 1998, as well as fabricated documents, including a training course certificate.
BA CityFlyer is a regional operator that flies Embraer 190 aircraft from London City Airport to domestic and European destinations.
British Airways said in a statement: "The safety of our customers and crew is always our priority, and the fully-qualified pilot was suspended and an investigation launched as soon as BA CityFlyer became aware of discrepancies in his employment record. At no point was there any risk to customers or colleagues."
Aer Lingus's regional carrier Stobart Air collapsed in June last year due to financial trouble throughout the COVID pandemic.
NIS To Install E-Border Monitoring Cameras Across Nigeria - THE GUILD
By Esther Kalu
As a measure to tackle illegal migration and security challenges, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has announced that no fewer than 84 border locations in Nigeria will be linked with e-border monitoring cameras to check issues of illegal immigrants and other border criminal activities.
The immigration regulation body stated that the Federal Government has already signed an agreement with a Chinese Company for the installation of the surveillance cameras across the locations, adding that when the operations commence, monitoring of borders across the country would be real-time online, using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) system.
While speaking to newsmen after a tour of facilities of the Control Post in Akwa Ibom Command on Wednesday, the Acting Comptroller General, NIS, Isah Idris disclosed that the implementation of the e-border monitoring would kick-start from second quarter of 2022, adding that protection of the border against illegal immigrants and other criminal activities require the support of all Nigerians.
Idris said with the installation of these cameras across the border locations will be done with ease, adding that if they are connected Ibaka to their communications centre, people can see what they are doing, real-time online which is what the Government is doing.
“The Federal Government signed the e-border agreement with a Chinese Company to supply cameras in about 84 locations of our borders, to use ICT as a tool to monitor our borders, because our border are massive. So, it is only with ICT that we can monitor our borders effectively. Of course, ICT requires money and we are going to be all time online. The President has equally approved the construction of our data communications centre in Abuja. It is a pilot product where we can view what is happening at Illela in Sokoto live.” he said.
He further said that the Government is doing well and it requires the support of the communities and Nigerians to achieve complete security of the nation.
Bickering follows Nigeria biometric passport issuance halt in UK, process ordered to resume - BIOMETRIC.COM
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.
China to restrict visas of U.S. officials, says foreign ministry - TRAVEL
BEIJING, March 31 (Reuters) - China has decided to restrict the visas for U.S. officials, in response to the U.S. visa restrictions on some China officials, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
The United States was restricting visas of some Chinese officials for involvement in "repressive acts" against ethnic and religious minority groups, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this month.
Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard, Writing by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Alex Richardson