Tunji-Ojo’s CAPAS: Signposts of Speed and Integrity Passport Issuance 

Is there any perceptible positive change in the system for application for and issuance of Nigeria’s passport?  

A business entrepreneur Hajia Samira Muhammed from Kaduna has no doubt about the positive change that is happening in the system. She narrates her experience:

“Ending 2022, my family and I were traveling out of the country. Some of us had expired passports while others didn’t have at all. We went to the immigration office and for over two months, we were going back and forth. Every day they will say no booklet or some vain excuse. We kept shifting our travel date. It was beginning to look like we wouldn’t travel. It was so slow and hectic. Fast forward to December 2023, one of my brothers went to renew his passport and can you believe that he got it almost immediately? We didn’t have to contact anybody or seek any favours. Imagine the shock we all were in, because we were already dreading the whole experience. His trip is not till May 2024 but he just wanted to start early and we were pleasantly surprised.”

Another beneficiary of the new dispensation, Peter Barnabas, shares his experience: “I went to the passport office to renew my passport this January. I made the normal payment and completed the necessary process. But because my NIN and passport names were not tallying, they asked me to go and correct them. I collected my passport two weeks later. The officer told me that if I didn’t have any problem with my names, I would have collected it in less than a week.”

A twitter user Mr Babatunde posted on his page on 21 November 2023: “I filled out the online form for the renewal of my International Passport. And with a fee of 26k. Without stress or unnecessary delay, got it today at the Ikoyi office.”

According to another lady “Jewel Galadima from Abuja, “Years ago, fuelled by the excitement of an upcoming study course abroad, I embarked on the seemingly straightforward mission of acquiring a passport. After the mandatory capture and fee payments, I was assured a one-week turnaround, only to find myself trapped in a perpetual cycle of three-week check-ins, with no definite timeline of its appearance. The experience left me traumatised, questioning how a process representing us as Nigerians could be so fundamentally flawed.

“For a passport renewal for a family trip in December 2023, to my astonishment, the process was seamless, devoid of any clandestine demands. My passport was in my hands the next day, and, in disbelief, I found myself frantically calling friends and family to share the unprecedented news – a testament that, against all odds, Nigeria can indeed work.”

New ideas take time to sink among the populace. In opting to modernise its system and processes for issuing and renewing international passports to Nigerian citizens, there will be hitches, especially because of the information and communication technology (ICT) dimensions of the system and processes involved.

Interior Minister, Tunji-Ojo, in an interview, conceded teething challenges in the automation process, but assured that the system’s effectiveness has been limited to a mere 4% hiccup rate. “We have to introduce this new system in order to stop non-Nigerians from carrying Nigerian passports. I assure you that in the next one or two weeks we will have near perfect system.

“We have to improve our process of obtaining passports because passport is a security document. This new system has improved accessibility, transparency and efficiency,” the minister stated.

Looking ahead, the minister outlined plans for contactless biometrics in passport renewal, affirming the government’s commitment to building a better future for Nigerians – home and in the diaspora.

Speaking on the observable change in cost for the 5-year passport, the minister, however, noted that the new cost was agreed to taking a cue from the cost of the 10-year passport.

“We are building a future for Nigerians where things should be done in a better way. We changed the price of five-year passport because the 10-year passport is N70,000; so, the one for five years should be half of that amount, which is N35,000. We are committed to making things better in our country,” the minister said.

The minister is determined to ensure integrity of the nation’s immigration document. CAPAS aims at maximum comfort of the applicant and ensure National Security. This system will allow Nigerians apply and upload their documents from their location of choice. The laudable initiative, which is mainly contactless, is geared towards making the passport application process efficient and more effective”.

All the passport centres across the country are being provided modern systems; core i5, 1Terrabyte and related hardware infrastructure.

The Deputy Comptroller of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Kemi Nandap, said, “from inception, when we launched, we’ve received over 46,000 applications of both new applicants and renewal, so Nigerians understand what to do. We have had a little problem of about 4% in terms of people who have not been able to upload the right documents or proper photograph because the system requires you upload the right document and the right kind of photograph”.

She explained that “if by any chance you upload the wrong document, we can query them and send you an email, an automated email immediately. That is why we need Nigerians to ensure they give us their correct email addresses, right phone numbers and also properly verified addresses.  

Speaking on Channels TV, the Comptroller General of Nigerian Immigration Services, Wuraola Adepoju, said of CAPAS. “It is in phases, currently, our first-time applicants have to go to our passport offices to get their biometric captured, but from March, 2024, everyone applying for passport renewal, they will be contactless application, because people who have their passports already, we have their data and biometrics. From the comfort of their homes, they can apply for renewal or reissue of their passport and they will be able to deploy their biometrics, like their fingerprints. Which we will now compare with what we have on our database. If everything goes, we will be able to issue them the passport they are applying for.”

According to the Comptroller General, the new automated system, when fully implemented is set to give Nigerians their passports after two weeks, barring any queries from uploaded documents.

If this is achieved, Nigerians should beat their chest and be proud of their nation for this great feat. Looking around the world, one may wonder, how long does it take to process your passport?

In United States of America, it takes 6-8 weeks for routine passport application. In the United Kingdom, you can get it within three weeks while in Canada, it takes 20 working days, which is basically 4 weeks.

In South Africa, the process takes 7-21 working days, (we can say 4 weeks also) and closer home in Ghana, the processing time takes 3 weeks.

Against the background of the foregoing perspectives, as headline, “Nigerians Groan Under New Passport Automation Processes” that ThisDay newspaper used for its progress report by Chuks Okocha on the passport automation project that was introduced on 8 January 2024 is a classic example of contrived alarmism.

The article highlights the challenges faced by Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, particularly during the Yuletide period, who felt so hurt by their experiences that some of them cried out to President Bola Tinubu to wade into what they described as “ill-advised and ill-timed.”

The context to the issue that needs to be appreciated is the confrontation by Tunji-Ojo of a very deep-seated inefficient passport administration system and processes that he met. It’s a system and related processes that frustrated Nigerians, and against which there have been persistent agitations for reform.

While the report under focus purports to echo the concerns of passport seekers, the more strident views are those of personnel in immigration offices in different parts of the country who, it must be assumed, have seen their interactions with passport seekers so severely limited.

There is also the penchant for laziness on the part of citizens on display, with the reporter quoting one of the applicants as saying: “Someone should help us tell the minister that we don’t know the meaning of ICAO, let alone knowing its standard for passport applications. What exactly is the meaning of an ICAO standard passport?” If the passport office says that compliance with ICAO standard for passport photos, why not Google up what this means? You’ll discover that this requires that your photo must measure 35 mm in width and 45 mm in height, in which the height of the face must be between 32 mm and 36 mm, or equal to between 70% and 80% of the photograph. The image’s recommended resolution is 300 pixels per inch (dpi).” Of course, the professional photographs who are never in short supply around passport offices know these requirements!

While concerns of passport seekers and teething challenges of the Service are acknowledged, the focus should be on the positive impact of reforming an old deeply flawed system. Our people must not give in to laziness in the face of emerging technological trends by either bracing up to understanding some of these new passport standards, or identifying trusted handlers who can guide them through the process when the need arises.

Like any new disposition, the new system, no doubts, will be met with opposition driven by vested interests, Nigerians must own the process by supporting this reform that has come to simplify our passport acquisition process, heralding a new era of efficiency and transparency.

Hassan writes from Abuja