In this publication
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Cost of international passport
The plan to, once again, hike the cost of acquiring International passports is not only confounding to Nigerians who are already over-burdened as they reel under the prevailing harsh economic conditions, its contemplation at all by the Nigerian Immigration Service is really insensitive. That plan should be shelved and all outstanding applications should be granted without further delay.
Every citizen has a right to a passport, the issuance of which should be seen as a duty of the government to the people. That being the case, it is absolutely wrong to make Nigerians pay through their noses to get their country's passport, perhaps the most valid identification instrument every citizen is entitled to.
As such, its issuance should not be predicated on the economic circumstances at any time and it should be made easily accessible as well as affordable, especially since it serves the purpose of enhancing the national database.
President Muhammadu Buhari should therefore reject the request for any increase in passport fees in the public interest. Instead, government should work on the processes of ensuring the production of passport booklets locally, as contracting the job to foreign companies is one of the major reasons for its high cost, a situation that is unacceptable for both economic and national security reasons.
Indeed, the statement by the Comptroller-General of the National Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, the other day that Nigerians would have to pay more for international passports should not be taken lightly by the government and everything must be done to keep the cost down.
Also, the suggestion that Nigerians would need to present their tax clearance certificates before being issued their passports is unnecessary and should be disregarded. If anything at all, such a measure would merely complicate the processes while not really helpful to the intended goal of making people pay their taxes.
According to Babandede, the proposed hike has been necessitated by the high cost of producing the passport booklets abroad, which he said has become unsustainable and uncompetitive under the current dispensation.
Indeed, according to him, it has become increasingly difficult for the Immigration Service to pay for the passport booklets being printed outside the country because of the fall in the value of the naira.
The NIS also reminded Nigerians that it is a revenue-generating agency and that "service delivery would improve as soon as the Federal Government approves the new fees for passports." Really?
The passport booklets are currently produced under a private-public partnership arrangement and is not funded by government. That, by implication, makes passport issuance more of a business than a service. Hence, according to the immigration agency, Nigerians must pay for it according to the prevailing economic circumstances.
Roughly two years ago, in August 2014, the Nigerian Immigration Service increased the cost of passport acquisition from around N7, 000 to the present N20, 000. Even at that, unscrupulous elements within the service have colluded with touts to charge over N25, 000 or extort much more from desperate applicants.
Even so, efficiency has never been the hallmark of the service. Today over 4, 000 applications are currently stuck at various passport offices across the country due to lack of booklets.
It is baffling and, indeed, shameful that Nigeria still cannot produce international passport booklets in the country, which is why the cost rises every now and then according to the extant exchange rate.
What kind of country, it must be asked, prints every security document, including her currency abroad, even when it has a Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company? That the NSPMC cannot meet the country's security documents need has been known for a long time and something should have been done to upgrade its capacity.
The result of dependence on foreign companies, like terribly bad currency notes in circulation or scarcity of international passport booklets, has always been a certain monumental embarrassment to Nigeria. These are in addition to such cases of national disgrace as occasioned by the printing of polymer banknotes in far-away Australia by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or the printing of election materials in South Africa by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Now, Nigerians are confronted with the printing of passport booklets in Malaysia by the NIS.
It is safe to say that the Nigerian system has deliberately left gaps for corruption to thrive as far as printing security documents is concerned for it can be assumed that it pays corrupt government officials to award over-priced contracts to foreign companies instead of getting the job done in Nigeria or fixing the printing facility in the country.
Certainly, Nigeria can save herself this monumental international embarrassment.
THE IGBO RANT
BIBLICAL TRADITIONS OF NDI IGBO BEFORE THE MISSIONARIES CAME TO AFRICA* IGBO 101.
THE IGBO TRIBE AND ITS FEAR OF EXTINCTION
The Igbo: We die for causes, not for personalities
Written by Emeka Maduewesi
~on fb. 28th September, 2016.
The Igbo will never die for anyone. We will not even riot for anyone. But the Igbo will die for any cause they believe in because the Igbo have a true sense of justice and a determination to obtain it.
The Igbo will not riot because one of their own lost an election. Operation Wetie was the Western response to a massively rigged 1965 election. The Yoruba doused fellow Yorubas in petrol and burnt them alife. Properties were burnt with occupants. The Igbo will never do this.
In 1983, the Yoruba went on a rampage again over the massive rigging by NPN. Lifes were lost and properties destroyed. The riots were over personalities.
Contrast that with Anambra State where Chief Emeka Ojukwu was rigged out by his own NPN, who also rigged out Chief Jim Nwobodo. The Igbo did not protest because the goat's head is still in the goat's bag.
In the North, ba muso was the battle cry when Sultan Dasuki was imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate. The riot and protest lasted for days and crippled economic activities.
The Igbo will riot over issues and causes. The Aba Women Riot was over Tax. The Enugu coal mine riot was about conditions of service. The Ekumeku Uprising was over British colonialization.
Those of "Ekumeku" ancestry - Umu Eze Chima and Umu Nri - were at the forefront of the struggles for Nigerian independence, with people like Dr. A A Nwafor Orizu and Chief Osita Agwuna serving prison terms. Any struggles the parents could not conclude is continued by the children by other means.
The Biafran war was a response to the genocide. The war in fact was brought upon us. The battlefield was Eastern Region. The war ended in 1970 but the issues and causes were not resolved. That is where we are today.
The Igbo will also jointly rise to fight evil in their midst. They did it in Onitsha in the 1980's, Owerri in the 90's, and with Bakkassi in the 2000.
The Igbo will not die for any man. But the Igbo will stand by any man who symbolizes their cause and their pursuit of justice. Even if the man dies, the struggle continues, and like the Ekumeku warriors, the children will pick up the baton from their parents.
This is the Igbo I know, the Igbo I am, and the Igbo we are. This is my story. Feel free to tell yours.
RT. HON. DR. NNAMDI AZIKIWE TO DR. CHUBA OKADIGBO (1981)
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