In a recent revelation, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has issued a staggering 66,929 official and diplomatic passports to public office holders since the inception of electronic passport issuance in January 2007 until August 2023. This information came to light as the NIS issued over 1,091 of these travel documents to newly-elected and appointed public officials following President Bola Tinubu’s inauguration on May 29, 2023.
Acting Comptroller-General of the NIS, Caroline Adepoju, disclosed these numbers during an exclusive interview with the Punch monitored by SK Blog. She also revealed that, during this period, a total of 16 million passports were issued to Nigerian citizens, including foreign nationals who later became citizens.
Adepoju further explained that the issuance of passports is an ongoing process. New passports are currently in the pipeline for new public office holders, including newly-appointed ministers, immigration officers on diplomatic missions, and military attaché.
“For diplomatic passports, which are issued to diplomats, we have 125 issued now. This includes some officials in the presidency, our personnel on diplomatic missions, and some military attaché. So far, we have issued 125 diplomatic passports. For the official category, that amounts to 966 passports,” said Adepoju.
Reflecting on the history of passport issuance in Nigeria, Adepoju pointed out, “Prior to 2007, passports were issued manually. The electronic passports came into being on January 1, 2007. So, to date, I can tell you that the total number of passports that have been issued is 16,361,966. That is the total of all the passports that have been given. As for the diplomatic passports, we have 12,470 issued since 2007, and the official category, we have issued 54,459 passports.”
Adepoju also highlighted the importance of timely passport collection by applicants. She urged Nigerians to apply for their passports online, emphasizing that agents’ involvement can lead to complications. She stated, “The danger is this: when agents apply on people’s behalf, they use fictitious addresses and telephone numbers. Even if we have observations or complaints or there are things the applicants need to correct on their forms, we cannot easily access them.”
In addition to passport issuance, Adepoju provided insight into the e-registration exercise for migrants, with over 300,000 migrants duly registered electronically. Of these, approximately 75,000 are regular migrants, while 225,000 are irregular migrants. This initiative is part of the NIS’s efforts to enhance national security and regulate the presence of migrants in the country.
Dr. Ogbole Amedu-Ode, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Singapore, explained the significance of official and diplomatic passports. He noted that these specialized documents ensure that bearers, often involved in significant state matters, are recognized internationally and granted the necessary courtesies and privileges to effectively carry out their duties. According to Dr. Amedu-Ode, diplomatic passports, in particular, are governed by the Vienna Convention, providing diplomats with essential privileges and responsibilities as they engage in international affairs.