YNaija Analysis: What is to be gained with the new NIS policy on international passports?

by Wareez Odunayo

It will be a sad news to many Nigerians who are yet to obtain their National Identification Number from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and are willing to obtain or renew their international passport as the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has disclosed that the ID number will be one of the criteria for the process starting January 1, 2018.

Though, it’s unclear to many why NIS came up with the idea of the National Identification Number which many have not gotten as one of the requirements for obtaining the ECOWAS passport come January 1, 2018, the most likely reason will be to solidify the government basis ahead of the 15 month-window given to Nigerians to fix their loose tax ends. Once this is in place, tax evaders will likely have a tough time leaving the country without setting off alarms in the appropriate quarters.

The official story is that the new requirement is to have a centralised database for Nigeria on one hand while improving the business environment on the other. Naturally, it will also go a long way to stop many Nigerians with falsified documents and questionable information.

Over time, the requirement for obtaining the Standard International Passport includes; Local Government letter of identification, 2 recent colour passport photographs, Birth certificate/age declaration, Parents’ letter of consent for minors under 16 years, Guarantor’s form sworn to before a commissioner of Oaths/Magistrate/ High Court Judge, Marriage certificate where applicable and Police report in case of lost passport.

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mohammed Babandede disclosed the new development on Tuesday shortly after a meeting of the database harmonisation committee in Abuja.

Babandede said, “We have agreed that from January 1, 2018, anybody who is going to apply for Nigerian passport, whether renewal or fresh, must first have a national identity number.

“I have also given the directive that any foreigner resident in Nigeria will not get his permit renewed until he has a NIMC number. To achieve this, NIMC and passport numbers will be harmonised and we are committed to allow NIMC in immigration offices.

“There is no need for you to go and have your biometric captured by NIMC and then you come and capture again with the Nigeria immigration.

He added, “Once you give us your NIMC number, we will collect the biometric from NIMC and produce your passport. That is the intention to do in all other agencies.”

“We should be able to access it, we should be able to know whether you have paid your tax or not.

“If you are coming through the airport and you want to leave Nigeria, we should be able to know that this guy has not paid his tax and you should be able to pay your tax before you depart. We are looking at one e-government and it is possible.”

Meanwhile, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has said that minors cannot obtain the National Identification Cards (NIC) until they are 16 years.

While this is all laudable in theory, we all have to wait to see how this new directive will work considering the fact that data management remains one of Nigeria’s biggest problem.

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