The Senate on Wednesday, March 24, adopted a motion to end the hardship being faced by Nigerians abroad in obtaining and renewing their passports.
It, therefore, mandated its relevant committees to engage Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs, Comptroller General of Immigration and Nigeria’s foreign missions to introduce measures for Nigerians abroad to renew their passports without difficulty.
The decision followed the adoption of a motion at plenary on “Urgent need to remove the difficulty faced by Nigerians outside of the shores of Nigeria in renewing their passport”.
The sponsor of the motion, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), decried the hardships faced by Nigerians in renewing their passports abroad.
According to him, citizens worst hit by the challenge are Nigerians in the United States of America, Canada, Italy, the UK, South Africa and Austria.
Urhoghide noted that in the United States of America for example, there are only four centres where Nigerians could renew their passports.
The centres are Washington DC, Atlanta, New York and California.
He said due to the insufficient number of centres, many Nigerians spent several days on the road to the renewal centres from their places of residence.
According to him, this affects their jobs, finances and even the safety of life.
“All of the passport renewal applicants spend months trying to renew expired passports.
“The only ones who get speedy attention are those that pay to the middlemen or directly to the embassy officials,” he said.
He decried the situation where Nigerians were made to be physically present at these renewal centres to be able to renew their passports.
“The reason given for requiring physical presence is that applicants need to be captured electronically for the new passport.
“This excuse is not tenable since fresh capturing should not be demanded of someone who already has his captured bio-data in the database,” Urhoghide said.
He further disclosed that “in some or all of the renewal centres, there exist middlemen who are either working with or for officials of the Nigerian embassies.
“This is especially true of renewal centres in the US and Italy, as videos of this practice are awash on social media.
“In all the cases, these middlemen are not Nigerians and demand for money from Nigerians to book for them a capture (interview) date with officials of the embassy.”
According to him, visa issuance, passport renewal and several other services rendered by the Nigerian embassies abroad have been turned into rackets by officials and their foreign partners who connive to make life unbearable for their kinsmen that they were employed to serve.
He warned that “unless urgent steps are taken now and decisively, everything we believe in as a nation and have worked for and continue to work to achieve will be undermined.
“Nigerians just cannot continue to treat fellow Nigerians that way, even foreigners should not be treated as such.”
The lawmaker observed that Nigerian embassy officials cannot feign ignorance of the hardships faced by Nigerians, the existence of middlemen and the inadequacy of the number of renewal centres.
“These were all deliberately created by embassies officials to oil the wheels of the passport/visa racketeering,” the senator said.