Nigerians have written to interior minister Rauf Aregbesola to decry the scarcity of passport booklets in the Nigerian embassy and consulates in the U.S., threatening “grave danger” to diplomats and other workers.
“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,” they warned. “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 a letter signed by Francis James, a board member of the Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN, inc) and other leaders of 16 Nigerian associations, they expressed frustration over obtaining their passports.
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 New York consulate.
Meanwhile, Mr Aregbesola had on June 16 denied a shortage of passport booklets in Nigeria, claiming President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime was contending with “human challenges.”
The citizens advised Mr Aregbesola to work with foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama to provide 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,” they stated in the letter. “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.”
In addition, they condemned the needless suffering of Nigerians due to the constant shortage of passport booklets.
Confirming the development, an official at the consulate, who spoke under anonymity, said 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 Nigerians in New York.
According to the source, the consulate normally receives 1,000 booklets monthly, sometimes 500.