The House of Representatives has said that it was abnormal to produce Nigerian passports outside the country in view of its security features.
Rep Timehin Adelegbe, Vice Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said this at the public hearing. This is on incessant malpractices associated with diplomatic postings and deliberate draining of resources on Tuesday in Abuja.
Adelegbe said that the security features contained in the Nigerian passport should be guarded. The lawmaker added that printing of Nigerian passport by a private firm outside the country was abnormal.
He said that most Nigerians were not happy with the process and collection of passports. He, adding that it was high time the issue was taken seriously and addressed.
In his reaction, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mohammed Babandede, said it was his greatest desire to produce Nigerian passports within the country.
“Our wish is to produce even a booklet of Nigerian passport in our compound,” he said. Speaking on the issue of nepotism in NIS foreign posting, Babandede said that officers often go the extra mile to lobby their way. This is because they consider such posting the most lucrative.
He said that since he assumed office, he had embraced transparency on foreign posting. This is as 50 per cent was reserved for officers who attended training school and 10 per cent for officers who had received award. He said that Nigeria had 47 diplomatic missions across the world. The NIS boss added that officers are only saddled with issuing visas and handling traveling documents. Babandede added that fees realized from these were usually remitted to the Federal Government, adding that contrary to the $40 million generated in 2019, in 2020 it generated $20 million due to COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that the extra charges being collected by Nigeria’s foreign missions would soon be addressed. Babandede added that it had been a big issue. He urged Nigerians abroad to be orderly and responsible in their quest to obtain passports and other documents. Furthermore, there was need to respect Nigeria’s mission abroad.
Rep Yusuf Buba Yakub, Committee Chairman, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remained the first mirror through which the entire world see Nigeria, hence, “whatever happens to it must be of concern to us.
“We must, therefore, resolve to work together to achieve the Foreign Service of our fondest dreams; and the time to do this, for me, personally, is today. Rep Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that there was hardly a country he visited that there were no embarrassing stories in the country’s missions.
” I visited many, right from my time as Minority Leader to House Leader and I can recall such stories.
“Be rest assured that it is not the intention of the House of Reps to act in a manner that singles out any one individual or group. Neither is it our desire to take punitive action as a matter of politics.
“We will conduct a thorough review of what is, by every standard, one of our nation’s premier institutions. And we will work with all who bear a responsibility to try to fix what needs fixing.” he said.
Mr Jeofrey Onyema, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, commended Babandede. He added that he remained one of the finest officers he had met. He blamed the social media on some of the reports about Nigeria’s foreign missions. The Minister added that most of the story posted on social media were not true.