Unclaimed passports: Supply accurate contact details, Immigration tasks Nigerians

Stephen Angbulu, Abuja

The Nigeria Immigration Service Monday in Abuja called on Nigerians to be more forthright with information and provide up-to-date details in their passports applications.

This is as it blamed the pileup of over 250,000 unclaimed passports in its various service centres nationwide largely on inaccurate contact details.

NIS’ call is coming barely two weeks after the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregebsola, disclosed that there are at least 250,000 unclaimed passports at various Immigration offices nationwide.

Speaking in Enugu State on March 3, 2022, the Minister who unveiled the enhanced electronic Passport facility of the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Enugu Passport Production Centre, said “It will interest you to know that between 2019 and now, the NIS has issued about 3 million passports to Nigerians. Last year alone, 1.3 million passports were issued.

“Also, last time I checked, over 250,000 passports remain uncollected by applicants. Their owners will probably be among those complaining they are yet to receive their passports. Nevertheless, many applicants are not going to have their passports because of the errors in their applications, which delay processing.

“They may not know because they applied through touts and other illegal channels. A major challenge of passport administration is the illegal patronage of touts and NIS officials, instead of the stipulated online platform.”

In January 2022, The PUNCH reported that over 2,560 passports remain unclaimed at the immigration office in Calabar, Cross River State.

The Comptroller of the state command, Simbabi Baikie, during a media chat said, “2,560 passports have not been collected, some dating back to 2019. Applicants come and apply but they don’t come back to collect the passports.”

In an in-person interview with our correspondent at the service headquarters in Abuja, the service Public Relations Officer, Amos Okpo, who lamented the buildup of unclaimed passports nationwide, noted that the service has mechanisms to contact Nigerians whose passports are ready for pick up but cannot reach them due to inaccurate or outdated contact details.

“Yes, we do have our challenges with stations that are not enhanced especially when we can’t verify your National Identification Number. But for the most part, the bulk SMS we send out either bounces or when delivered, lands in a phone that does not belong to the owner.

“This is true because there are those who don’t get the messages because some applicants did not fill the forms themselves. Therefore the notification sent is dropping in the mobile phone of a third party. Some give us incomplete phone numbers and our messages bounce.

“This is why we came up with two timelines; six weeks for fresh passports and three weeks for reissue. This is to enable us to verify all your information, especially the addresses and phone numbers,” Okpo said.

He also noted that the disparity in the arrangement of names submitted during passport application and those registered on the National Identity Management Commission portal has led to a build-up of unverified details.

The spokesman explained, “There is also the issue of disparity in names. In our processing system, Buhari Muhammadu is not the same as Muhammadu Buhari. So when the enrollment officer is trying to enrol, it doesn’t go.

“Nigerians need a lot of orientation on this. If you have a functioning email address, put it. If you have a phone number, put the correct digits and verify them before submitting. If your address is…put it as accurately as you can.”

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