Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has disclosed that over 14,000 processed passports in Lagos and Ibadan centres have not been collected by applicants.
Aregbesola made the disclosure on Tuesday evening during a virtual event with the theme, ‘Africa: Interrogating the Leadership Questions,’ organised by Lagos-based Proumou Media Consulting.
The Minister, who turned 64 on Tuesday, was fielding questions from participants at the three-hour programme.
He said talks about scarcity of booklets could not be justified, adding that he just completed a tour of the passport centres around Lagos and Ibadan in the South West zone of the country.
Aregbesola said he was shocked to discover that over 14,000 passports were in the custody of passport offices with owners not showing up for collection.
He said:“I will leave this to the Comptroller General of the Immigration to do a specific response to this latest by Thursday. We just completed a tour of passport stations in Ibadan and Lagos. Ibadan has only one station while Lagos has three passport stations. And what we found out was amazing. We found out that there were over 14, 000 uncollected passports in Ibadan, Alausa, Festac and Ikoyi stations.
“So, if there is such scarcity of booklets as falsely and commonly believed, would we have over 14,000 uncollected booklets? So, I want to use this medium to let Nigerians know that we have more than enough booklets.”
The minister noted that although there are little challenges of indiscipline among some officers which his ministry is working hard to correct, adding that his ministry suspended processing of new passports applications from May 18 till May 3, in order to clear all pending applications.
He stressed that as part of strategic efforts of his ministry to ensure stress-free passport processing, a new regime of productions and collections would take effect in June.
“Our plan is to clear all backlogs of passport applications up until the 31st of this month of May. From the 1st of June, a new regime of passport issuance will come up. And the real gist of that is that every applicant in our passport offices will have to wait for six weeks and within that period, should there be any issue with your application, you will be contacted and informed. And certainly by the end of the sixth week, your passport would be ready for you to collect or taken to you if you so desire or to any designated spot that you would have indicated in your form. We are changing the entire process to a seamless, minimal, person-to-person contact option. So, corruption will be minimised if not totally eliminated,” Aregbesola stated.
Other speakers at the virtual event include former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Mrs. Titi Laoye-Ponle; renowned poet, Odia Ofiemun; Head of Department of History,University of Ibadan, Prof. Olutayo Adesina; Director, Centre for Advanced International and Professional Studies, Prof Anthony Kila; daughter of the late winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and Founder, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, Hafsat Abiola-Costello; former Delta State representative on the board of Niger Delta Development Commission, Ogaga Ifowodo; the Senator representing Osun Central, Dr. Ajibola Basiru and State Secretary of All Progressive Congress in Osun State, Alhaji AbdulRazaq Salinsile.