Nigerian Passport applicants at home and the diaspora are holding their breath
For Nigerians living at home and abroad waiting for that special green booklet signifying their citizenship, there might be some hope ahead. The Nigerian Government has promised that the backlog of Passport applications will be cleared by May 31st at the latest, and all pending passports would be issued accordingly. The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola made this commitment recently at a special executive meeting in Abuja with the Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola
Mr. Aregbesola explained that the Ministry of Interior has introduced sweeping reforms with regards to concerns on passport application and issuance. He also restarted an earlier promise that an Express Passport Processing is underway that will enable passports to be processed in 72 hours.
The Minister noted that “the Nigerian Passport is the strongest instrument of Sovereignty, Nationality, and Citizenship. Whoever holds a Nigerian Passport is a bonafide Citizen and should be treated with dignity and respect.”
On Managed Migration, the Interior Minister promised to work with strategic agencies to see that Migration is profitable to the migrant and the country of stay and homeland. The Minister also applauded NIDCOM’s consistency in highlighting the key issues and finding the solutions for Nigerians in the Diaspora. “The Commission is indeed a veritable tool for strong and worthy engagement.”
Also in discussion was the issue of historic African diaspora whose forefathers were taken away as slaves. These American descendants of slaves are taking DNA tests to trace their African origins. Many of the newly acknowledged Nigerians are now requesting citizenship. The Minister pledged that the issue would be looked at holistically.
NIDCOM is also seeking the Ministry’s participation in some programs and engagements with Nigerians in the Diaspora. These include National Diaspora Day Celebrations, Nigerian Diaspora Investment Summit, Quarterly Diaspora Lecture Series, among others
Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa
Abike Dabiri-Erewa particularly commended the Minister’s effort in making the passport application and issuance seamless as well as the new 10-year validity period, which is the first of its kind in Nigeria. She said, “this is indeed cheering news for Nigerians in the Diaspora.”
The passport application process has often been sharply criticized in the past by applicants in Nigeria and many other countries around the world. The passport of Nigeria is ranked 70 in the world by the 2021 Passport Index. Citizens can visit 44 countries visa-free.
Nigerians and success
In the US, Nigerians are the most highly educated of all groups, with 61 percent holding at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 31 percent of the total foreign-born population and 32 percent of the US-born population.
There are over 15 million Nigerians in the diaspora, with a compelling drive to succeed. The number of Nigerian immigrants to Canada alone has tripled in the last five years, as more and more Nigerians pursue “the good life” abroad. A BBC report noted that: “The drive to be educationally and professionally successful may also be linked to Nigeria’s well-known optimism. When your culture is preternaturally positive despite often brutal political, health, and social conditions, optimism drives and inspires you to expect success in almost any circumstance. Nigeria is considered a collectivist society. Individuals pursuing success are a commitment to the well-being, pride, and prosperity of the family or tribe.”
According to estimates by PwC, migrant remittances to Nigeria could surpass US$29 billion by 2021. With such huge numbers, placing the issuance of passports to Nigerians in the diaspora on the fast track is sound economics.
Passport application reforms have been promised in the past by previous administrations. Nigerians at home and in the diaspora are now hoping that this time, the promise would be fulfilled.