By Cecilia Ologunagba
Nigerians in New York, U.S, have written the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola on the scarcity of passport booklets in Nigerian Consulates and embassy in the U.S.
In the letter, jointly signed by Mr Francis James, a board member of the Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN, inc) and other leaders of 16 Nigerian associations, they expressed the frustration Nigerians went through to get their passports.
A copy of the letter, made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York, stated the frustration by Nigerians applying for passports in its missions in the U.S. due to lack of passport booklets.
NAN reports that OAN had on June 29, held a virtual Town Hall meeting to discuss the challenges Nigerians faced in getting their passports and deliberated on ways to address the challenges.
OAN had summoned the meeting based on the information that prior to June 28, passport issuance had stopped for four weeks at the Consulate in New York, according to James, OAN liaison with the Nigeria Consulate in New York.
The meeting agreed that a letter would be written to the minister of interior and other key relevant officials to communicate the three-point resolutions from the meeting.
Meanwhile, Aregbesola, had on June 16 denied shortage of passport booklets in Nigeria, saying the country was contending with “human challenges”.
“We are requesting your Excellency to work together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama and facilitate the provision of adequate passport booklets.
“This will enable the Consulate in New York to clear the backlogs at all processing locations and ensure that Passport processing from application to issuance is completed within a reasonable time frame of not more than three months.
“The ministry should expand the number of available appointments on the central portal to at least 100 each day, or to the number each Embassy or Consulate has the capacity to handle.
“It should also hold Innovate1, the vendor managing the payment portal, accountable to improve their service and deliver a more customer friendly platform to Nigerians,’’ it stated.
According to them, by taking the three steps, the Nigerian Community will be well served and there will be little or no friction at missions, noting that Nigerians will be very proud of their Embassies and Consulates.
“Nigerian Consulate in New York has come a long way in improving consular services to the Nigerian community, and we would hate to see all their efforts go to waste.
“OAN, Inc. and other Nigerian Organisations have worked diligently with the Consulate in New York to improve the delivery of consular services to Nigerians who need such services and the Consular officers have responded very well to Nigerians seeking their services.’’
The organisations emphaised that there were tremendous service improvements in the New York Consulate before the shortage of passport booklets set in.
“Unfortunately, all the service gains made over several months in the past are in jeopardy of being lost, due to the consistent chronic shortage of passport booklets.
“When booklets are eventually released, the number is grossly inadequate to serve the large number of applicants.
“If this shortage of passport booklets should continue, we are afraid that the safety of the Consulate officials as well as the Nigeria House, New York and other Nigerian Missions in the United States may be in grave danger.
“The recent unwarranted aggression towards our fellow citizens working in our Consulates is not an aberration. It is the product of consistent Consulate’s inability to provide basic consular services to them.’’
In addition, they condemned in strongest term, the needless suffering of Nigerians due to the constant shortage of passport booklets, adding that it was a basic service that any government can effortlessly deliver to her citizens.
Confirming the development, an official at the consulate, who pleaded anonymity, told NAN that the mission received 2,000 booklets on June 29 and had resumed its passport issuance immediately after stopping for four weeks.
The source confirmed that the consulate had a backlog of 7,000 passports to clear, and that a steady supply of 2,500 booklets monthly, would be enough to meet the needs of its citizens in New York.
According to the source, the consulate normally receives 1,000 booklets monthly sometimes 500, explaining that insufficient booklets is responsible for the backlog.