By Taiwo Okanlawon
The Minister of Interior Affairs, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the delay in the issuance of international passports.
He stated this at a webinar organised by Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) on Saturday.
The event tagged, ‘Mobilising Nigerians in the Diaspora for National Development’ was attended by Nigerians from across the world.
According to him, the pandemic affected the operations of the Nigerian Immigration Service with regards to issuing international passports.
However, he assured that everything was being done to resolve the issue, adding the Nigeria Immigration Service was working to ensure all outstanding passport applications were issued by May 31.
Also that from June 1, passports would be issued within six weeks, explaining that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the issuance of passports in the country.
Aregbesola also said the government had launched the electronic temporary passport to ease the burden on Nigerians.
He said, “The Nigeria Immigration Service also had their fair share of the pandemic which affected passport issuance.
“We have launched an electronic temporary passport to ease the burden of Nigerians.
“By May 31, all outstanding passport applications will be cleared. We are also looking at domesticating passport printing to avoid a shortage of booklets for renewal and new passport collection.
“Also, from June 1, the collection of passports will take six weeks and this will allow us to carry out due diligence.”
Also speaking at the event, Amb. Zubair Dada, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who assured that Nigerians in the Diaspora would soon be able to vote from their countries of residence.
The minister said the Federal Government was working with relevant authorities, including the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to achieve this feat.
He noted that there were about 17 million Nigerians in the Diaspora making a significant impact on the country’s economy that could not be ignored.
He added that Nigerians in the Diaspora were critical components when considering the country’s development, saying that the need to effectively mobilise them could not be over-emphasised.
Dada, however, urged Nigerians in the Diaspora to remain patriotic and committed to the country’s development irrespective of the current security situation which he said was being addressed.
According to him, Nigerians in the Diaspora could also make suggestions and proffer solutions on how the situation could be addressed.
He, however, decried the lack of cordial relationship with the country’s mission abroad and Nigerians in the Diaspora, saying that Nigerians should not wait until they had problems before locating the mission.
Dada noted that though there may be some bad eggs in some of the country’s foreign missions, efforts were being made to address the situation.
He said NIDCOM had all the instruments it needed to serve Nigerians in the Diaspora.
“NIDCOM and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one and the same, we are out here to serve you,” he said.
He said the Federal Government was doing everything to address the security and infrastructural deficit in the country.
The minister noted that in spite of the country’s security challenges, foreigners had continued to come in droves to invest because of the benefits they stand to gain.
He said while there were some bad eggs among Nigerians in the Diaspora, the patriotic ones should come to join the government in developing the country.
“In spite of the odds and shortcomings, we have to come home to develop the country, no one can do it better for us,” he said.
Ms Abike Dabiri-Erewa, NIDCOM Chief Executive Officer, encouraged Nigerians in the Diaspora to follow up with the commission to be availed of opportunities they could tap into.