Blame Game Continues According To Immigration, Firm Blames Cash Crunch On Passport Booklet Shortage

 The Nigerian Immigration Service and a firm contracted by the Federal Government to produce Nigerian passports, Iris Smart Technologies Limited, have blamed the Central Bank of Nigeria’s foreign exchange policy for the scarcity of booklets.

The firm also accused the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Plc of sabotaging its efforts after failing to secure the contract to produce the passports.

The Managing Director of Iris Smart Technologies Limited, Yinka Fisher, made the allegation in Abuja on Tuesday when he appeared before the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee to Investigate the Proposed Domestication and Processing of Nigerian International Passports. The committee also grilled the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Idris Jere, at its investigative hearing.

Fisher told the committee that e country had a shabby passport administration.

 Before their FG engagement said, “Today, we have a system where we have a central processing centre with a robust inventory control mechanism. Last year, we delivered a record number of booklets to NIS, about 1.9 million. 

“This year, we have delivered nearly 800,000 booklets for the first four months. We are on course for another record supply this year. The Nigeria Immigration Service allowed the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Plc to print the first set of booklets. When they were delivered, it was substandard. The government discarded them and decided to have an international tender for the production and embedding of chips.

“Five companies were invited; Three foreign companies, Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Plc and ourselves. The Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Plc were found to be technically incompetent and expensive. The IRIS bid was found to be technically competent and price competitive. The award was given to IRIS to produce the passports.”

Fisher added, “The project was contractor financed from the beginning. The government did not and has not invested money since its inception. The funding has been completed by us. We took an N3bn facility from the bank to start the project. Till now, the government has still not put a kobo. 

“We get paid for the goods and services, and we deliver. We don’t do revenue sharing. If we provide 100 booklets, they pay us for 100 flyers. The government has a revenue of over N100bn and over $200m. 

“There are two revenue streams: local revenue is about N100bn, and overseas sales amount to $200m.”

In his presentation, Jere decried that the NIS needs access to the forex it generated while attributing the shortage of booklets to the unavailability of foreign exchange from the CBN to aid production outside the country. The NIS boss also decried the absence of a manufacturing factory in Nigeria, noting that the travel document is produced abroad.

He said, “We generate forex from the sale of passports, but we cannot buy the same booklets, which is a challenge for NIS.

“The factors responsible for the scarcity of passports include the inability to set up passport-producing factories in Nigeria, as its production is done abroad. The primary seven components used for producing passports are sold in the international market, and the assemblage and production are done in Malaysia.

“This makes the production process solely dependent on forex, and the scarcity of forex due to the fall in Naira value is of major concern.”