International Passport: The Minister for Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has officially confirmed the clearance of nearly 60,000 passport backlogs in just four working days.
This unprecedented feat comes in response to the directives issued to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) by the minister last week Thursday, September 7, mandating them to swiftly process and clear all pending passport applications.
Alao Babatunde, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Minister Tunji-Ojo, quoted him affectionately as ‘BTO,’ revealing this impressive accomplishment during a press briefing on Tuesday, September 12, in Abuja.
The announcement coincided with a courtesy visit by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, who was keen on strengthening collaboration between the two ministries to combat human trafficking and associated challenges.
“We are not just working on humanitarian endeavours as human trafficking, our NIS must help us change the story, completely.
“When we came on board, the passport crisis was an embarrassment. And, we said: it cannot continue.
“As of this morning, I can tell you that about 60,000 passport backlogs have been cleared, specifically 59,906.
“On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, when I gave the 2-week ultimatum, we had over 200,000 backlogs.
“We have recorded progress, and I maintain my word, that those backlogs must be cleared.
“So, you can be assured that our ministry is ready to work with you on any solution we consider thoughtful and progressive like the ones you have shared.
“We may only have to expand it to include the welfare of inmates in our correctional homes as they are Nigerians as well.”
Meanwhile, the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, has emphasized the critical importance of collaboration between her ministry and the Ministry of Interior. Dr. Edu highlighted that this collaborative effort, focusing on Internal Security, Human Trafficking, and Migration, holds the key to addressing the root causes of humanitarian crises and poverty in Nigeria.
Dr. Edu, displaying her unwavering commitment to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians grappling with poverty and humanitarian needs, voiced her advocacy for a robust synergy between her ministry and the Ministry of Interior. This partnership, she noted, is vital to tackle pressing challenges and advance President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s agenda to address humanitarian crises and reduce poverty levels, aligning with the Renewed Hope Agenda of the administration.
The Minister underlined the necessity of providing lasting solutions to crises, emphasizing that inter-ministerial collaborations are the pathway to achieving tangible results. She identified Internal Security, Human Trafficking, and Migration as key factors contributing to insecurity and, consequently, humanitarian crises and poverty nationwide.
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Dr. Edu expressed optimism that the synergy between the two ministries would play a pivotal role in addressing these multifaceted challenges. She commended Minister Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo for bringing his wealth of experience to the Ministry of Interior, recognizing that collaboration with her ministry would enhance the intelligence required for effective humanitarian responses.
“My new responsibilities focus on covering a greater population of vulnerable Nigerians, providing them with humanitarian services and alleviating their poverty in line with President Tinubu’s agenda.
“The President is committed to seeing that Nigerians smile again, and reduce the number of people living below the poverty line to the bearest minimum.” she said.
Speaking further, the Minister said; “my coming here is to quickly speak with you because your Ministry is one of the Ministries that will make my job easier.
“The President is committed to seeing that he reduces the number of persons who are exposed or prone to a humanitarian crisis, I am saying this because a lot of our work depends on how well you do youre work in the Ministry of Interior.
“We need your support and we need it at all levels. The heads of security agencies here at this meeting will help to work with our team to gather intelligence on how people are moving in and out of our country.
“There are issues of human trafficking, child labor, and sexual exploitation, amongst other things which lead to humanitarian crises, We cannot continue to allow this trend to go unattended, It’s not acceptable.
“We need your support. We need intelligence from you. We just got the approval for officers from NAPTIP to be present at the different ports.
“We need you to know the importance of our collaboration with you on the border. We have to find ways to step up our intelligence in Nigeria, we have too many illegal borders.”
In terms of social intervention, the Minister expressed that the expansion of the social register will encompass the inclusion of the next-of-kin of servicemen and the widows of paramilitary personnel who have tragically lost their spouses in the line of duty. Furthermore, she revealed that inmates within the Nigeria Correctional Services will also be incorporated into these initiatives, thereby affording them the opportunity to participate in skill acquisition programs offered by her Ministry.
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In response, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo commended Dr. Edu for her proactive approach in seeking collaboration through the Renewed Hope initiative. The Minister emphasized that an interministerial Committee, led by the respective permanent secretaries of their Ministries, will diligently devise strategies aimed at fortifying the focus of their shared agenda.
Minister Tunji-Ojo expressed profound appreciation for the Humanitarian Minister’s generous offer to provide skill training for inmates of the Correctional Services. He described this offer as heartwarming and a welcomed development, highlighting its potential for positive impact.