The Senate has mandated the Committees on Interior and Foreign Affairs to engage Ministers, the Comptroller General of immigration, Ambassadors and Consular Officers to introduce measures to make it easy for Nigerians abroad to renew their passports.
The decision was reached after the consideration of a motion titled: “Urgent need to remove the difficulty faced by Nigerians outside of the shores of Nigeria in renewing their Passport”.
The sponsor, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP – Edo South), condemned the hardship faced by Nigerians in renewing their travel documents.
The lawmaker said the worst hit are nationals in Austria, Canada, Italy, United Kingdom and United States of America.
Urhoghide noted that in the U.S. there are only four centers for passport renewal – Atlanta, California, New York and Washington D.C.
“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,” he said.
The Public Accounts Committee Chairman decried the situation where Nigerians are made to physically present at renewal centers.
Citing capture as the reason given by the Immigration Service, Urhoghide said it was not tenable since applicants’ bio-data are already in the database.
The Senator lamented that at the renewal centers, there exist middlemen who are either working with or for officials of the Nigerian Embassies.
“This is especially true of renewal centers in the U.S. and Italy; videos of this practice are awash on social media. These middlemen demand money from Nigerians to book a capture (interview) date,” he added.
Urhoghide decried how visa issuance, passport renewal and several other services rendered by the Nigerian Embassies have turned into rackets by officials and their foreign partners.
“Payment for the renewal is done with credit/debit cards of the holder or owner only for himself or herself.
Payment for the children or any other family member is done using money order and this money order has to be sent by post. This has recorded missing money orders.”
Urhoghide added that the federal officials cannot feign ignorance of the challenges faced by citizens, the existence of middlemen and the inadequacy of renewal centers.
In a resolution, the Senate directed relevant ministries and agencies to increase the number of centers where passports can be renewed abroad, stop the use of middlemen and periodically assess the activities of foreign missions.