The Nigerian government has reduced the processing time for passport applications to two weeks, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has announced.
The minister said the decision was taken to ease the hardship Nigerians go through to get international passports at the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) offices across the country.
Early in September, the minister vowed to sort the existing backlogs of about 204,000 in two weeks. However, he apologised to Nigerians that the clearance of the backlog had spilt into three weeks.
The minister praised officers and men of the NIS for working day and night including weekends and public holidays to meet up with his directive.
He said while the procurement of visas is a privilege, acquiring international passports is a right.
He also expressed the commitment of President Bola Tinubu not to increase the cost of passport application despite the foreign exchange volatility.
The minister said the government had taken a number of steps to improve the passport processing system, including increasing the number of printing machines to four in passport offices where they had two, and allowing applicants to upload their passport photographs via the immigration portal.
He urged Nigerians who had applied for passports to visit immigration offices to collect them.
The minister also announced that in the next couple of months, passport applicants would be able to upload their passport photographs and supporting documents online and would only be required to visit the passport offices for their biometrics enrolment.
He said the government was also working to reduce the waiting time at passport offices to 10 minutes or less.
The minister asked Nigerians not to pay bribes for their passports and provided contacts to lodge complaints where there were any.
He said the government was working to improve the attitude of a very negligible fraction of NIS officers who may not be following the new guidelines.
The reduction in passport processing time is a welcome development for Nigerians, who have long complained about the delays and bureaucracy involved in obtaining a passport.