The increase in passenger and aircraft movements to international destinations has triggered a higher demand for Nigeria's passport booklets, THISDAY's investigation has revealed.
THISDAY gathered that more Nigerians are travelling out of the country, resulting in a high demand for the country's passports.
A data obtained from the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) showed that 16, 371, 674 passengers travelled out of the country in 2018, representing an increase of about three million passengers or 19.4 per cent, compared to 13, 706, 347 passengers who did in 2017.
The data revealed that from April to June 2019 alone, the country recorded outbound movements of 543, 624 passengers compared to inbound movements of 502, 851.
The Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), it was learnt, generated revenues from passports amounting to N39.06 billion in 2018, as against N35.72 billion in 2017. This represents an increase of nine per cent.
A senior NIS official told THISDAY that the old passport booklet was in higher demand than the new one because many Nigerians have not met the criterion for obtaining the new passport booklet.
Under a new policy rolled out by the federal government to encourage more Nigerians to apply for the national identity card, applicants for Nigerian passport must furnish the NIS with their National Identification Number (NIN), which can only be obtained when an applicant completes the process for applying for the national identity card with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
"So, there is higher demand for the old passport as applicants are yet to meet the stringent requirements needed to obtain the new ones, which have improved security system that makes it extremely very difficult to fake," the NIS official said.
This development, it was learnt, has led to increased pressure on the demand for the old passport and the crowding of NIS offices; fueling illicit deals, as frustrated applicants desperately choose to offer financial inducement for assistance.
With the high demand, THISDAY gathered that some passport offices increased the charges for the travel document.
THISDAY learnt that in some passport offices, applicants are charged N5,000 before they are approved for capture; N45,000 instead of N25,000 for lost passports and N43,000 instead of N23,000 for a change of name.
However, spokesman of NIS, Mr. Sunday James, told THISDAY that the federal government has given directive for the localisation of the production of passports, which for years have been produced overseas.
He said with the new policy, the booklet would be more readily available to meet the increasing demand.
James acknowledged the mammoth crowd at the many passport offices across the country every working day.
On the issue of alleged extortion, James said applicants were supposed to make payments online before they go to the passport offices for capture, adding that if this system is strictly followed, the whole process would be cashless.
According to him, many of the applicants are not computer-literate and many don't even know how to fill forms without assistance.
The NIS spokesman said any applicant who gave anyone money had circumvented the law and should be prosecuted.
He explained: "Our system states that you should pay money online but when you decide to come with cash, it means that you want to entice somebody. Our system is organised to be cashless. So, with the kind of process we put in place there won't be any extortion. So, once you give money, you have circumvented the law. We should comply with the law.
"You have to realise also that some people go to passport offices to extort some people. They are not seeking for passport but they just come there to extort money from applicants; so, it is not all the people you see at passport offices are passport applicants."