NIGERIA’S high commission to the UK has suspended its fast-track passport services indefinitely as part a major restructuring programme aimed at guaranteeing the smooth issuance of passports.
Following the recent lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a huge backlog of 18,000 passport applications grew at the London mission. When the high commission opened in April this year, clearing this backlog became the main priority for new high commissioner Chief Sarafa Ishola and the fast-track service was subsequently introduced.
Highly popular, the fast-track service which cost £120, enabled applications to be processed with 72 hours with passports sent to the addresses of applicants. However, with the backlog now being cleared, the high commission is confident that it can now return to normal operations.
A high commission spokesman said: “The Nigeria High Commission wishes to thank all Nigerians who have been availing themselves of the services being rendered by the commission, especially passport applicants, for their understanding and cooperation since the mission was re-opened to the public in April 2021 after the Covid-19 lockdown. Mission appreciates your kind words of commendation and would continue to work tirelessly to improve all aspects of its service delivery.
“It is important to be transparent in our conduct of public affairs and apprise members of the public with the challenges in the processing of applications for Nigerian passports in the United Kingdom. Consequently, the mission wishes to announce to the general public, especially applicants for passport fast-track service, that, with effect from Monday, 20th September, 2021, the passport fast-track service would be suspended until further notice.
“As a result, only applicants on scheduled appointments will be attended to by the mission. This decision was taken due to certain logistic challenges in the passport issuance process.”
According to the mission, Nigerians, who need to travel to Nigeria urgently, can apply for the issuance of Emergency Travel Certificate. At the moment, applications with online payments submitted in April 2021 are currently being treated and this process will continue and their applications would be processed up till biometrics stage while they will submit their collection slips with a self-addressed special delivery envelope for postage.
Between December 2019 and September 15 2021, a total of 30,993 passport applications were received and since the mission commenced passport processing in April 2021, 30,984 passport applications have been received, of which 28,239 passports have been issued and posted to the respective applicants. According to the high commission, it craves the indulgence of fellow compatriots to exercise patience while the logistic challenges are being addressed.