The recent closure of international airports in Nigeria has affected the issuance of e-Passports to intending pilgrims across the country for the annual Hajj activities in Saudi Arabia.
The Comptroller, Niger State Command of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Alhaji Ibrahim Sani Wase, made this known when the Acting Executive Secretary of the Niger State Pilgrims Board, Alhaji Umar Makun Lapai, paid him a courtesy visit at the Command’s office in Minna, Niger State.
Alhaji Wase said the non-availability of the e-passports for intending pilgrims is as a result of the introduction of new international passports which have to be printed outside the Country.
The Covid-19 global pandemic necessitated the closure of all international airports in the country by the Nigerian Government.
“The problem is not peculiar to Niger state. The challenge is nationwide as a result of the introduction of new international passports in the country, and also the closure of all International airports. It will be a very great challenge, since the e-passports are being produced outside the country”. The Comptroller said.
More than 2000 intending Pilgrims of the over 3000 seats allocated to Niger State in North Central Nigeria are yet to have their e-Passports.
The Niger state Pilgrims Welfare Board information’s officer, Hassan Idris, stated that the Immigration Comptroller has assured the Board of the immediate distribution of the e-Passports as soon as they are available.
Alhaji Wase pleaded with the officials of Board to monitor the issuance of the Passports so as not to fall into the wrongs hands.
“We are hoping for a cordial relationship between the Command and the Board so as to have smooth Hajj operations.” Alhaji Wase added.
The Acting Executive Secretary, Niger State Pilgrims Welfare Board Alhaji Umaru Makun Lapai, commended the Niger State Command of the NIS for carrying the Board along, especially during pilgrim exercises and also appealed to the Comptroller on the need to urgently resolve the challenges of the e-Passports.
Alhaji Lapai pointed out that Niger State may likely not fulfil its slot of intending Pilgrims for the 2020 Hajj if the situation does not improve.
“Unless something is done urgently regarding issuance of International Passport, the state might lag behind in terms of hajj operations this year because we have not been able to register our pilgrims at the National Hajj Commission this year due to non-availability of international passports.” Alhaji Lapai said.
However, an expert on Hajj transportation, Mallam Abubakr Siddiq, observed that the Covid-19 global pandemic may affect 2020 Hajj operations in the country more than the delay in production and supply of e-Passports.