OrderPaperToday – The Senate has resolved to put measures in place to make it easy for Nigerians abroad to renew their passports.
The decision was reached after a motion titled: “Urgent need to remove the difficulty faced by Nigerians outside of the shores of Nigeria in renewing their Passport” was considered during plenary on Wednesday.
The Senate accordingly mandated the Committees on Interior and Foreign Affairs to engage the Ministers of both the Interior and Foreign Affairs Ministries, the Comptroller General of immigration, and Ambassadors and Consular Officers on the need to immediately introduce measures to make it easy for Nigerians abroad to renew their passports.
Sponsor of the motion, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), noted with utmost concern the hardships faced by Nigerians in renewing their travel passport documents outside the shores of Nigeria.
According to him, citizens worst hit by these unacceptable hardships are Nigerians in the United States of America, Canada, Italy, the UK and Austria.
Urhoghide noted that in the United States of America for example, there are only four centers (one in each of four states) where Nigerians can renew their passports.
The Centres are: Washington DC; Atlanta; New York, and California.
He lamented that, “only four centers in the whole of the United States is enough problem in itself. Nigerians in the remaining forty six states in the US have to travel to the center closest to them, or sometimes to a center cheaper in monetary terms to access.
“Due to the number of insufficient Centres, some Nigerians are on the road for days to the renewal centers from their places of residence, a situation which affects their jobs, finances and even safety of life.
“All of the passport renewal applicants spend months trying to renew expired Passports. The only ones who get speedy attention are those that pay to the middlemen or directly to the embassy officials.
“Some states in the United States are bigger than some countries of the world in both population and land mass and as such one center cannot serve the needs of Nigerians in them without recourse to renewal by post”, Urhoghide said.
The lawmaker decried the situation where Nigerians are made to physically present at these renewal centers to be able to renew their passport.
“The reason given for requiring physical presence is that applicants need to be captured electronically for the new passport.
“This excuse is not tenable since fresh capturing should not he demanded of someone who already has his captured bio-data in the database”, he stated.
He disclosed activities of the middlemen at the renewal center, especially in the US and Italy as videos of this practice are awash on social media.
“In all the cases, these middlemen are not Nigerians and demand for money from Nigerians to book for them, a capture (interview) date with officials of the embassy”.
According to him, “visa issuance, passport renewal and several other services rendered by the Nigerian Embassies in many countries of the world have been turned into rackets by Nigerian officials and their foreign partners who connive to make life unbearable for their kinsmen that they were employed to serve.”
Urhoghide who described the development as “unacceptable” raised alarm that “the Nigerian image abroad is already bastardized and these practices are contributory since they have been going on for quite some time now.”
He warned that unless urgent steps are taken now and decisively, “everything we believe in as a nation and have worked for and continue to work to achieve will be undermined.