THE newly introduced e-passport notwithstanding, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) yesterday said that the old machine-readable passport will still remain valid till 2010.The agency has also stepped up its drive to hasten the issuance of the newly introduced e-passport to intending applicants.
The agency's spokesperson, Ekpedeme King, disclosed during a chat with reporters in Lagos, that arrangements have been put in place to phase out the machine-readable passport.
His added: "The appeal we are making now to Nigerians is that they should remain where they are. If you are holding a machine-readable passport that has not expired, continue to use it. It has a time frame of three years. You are not under compulsion to migrate to the e-passport until the next three years. So, if your passport is still valid, continue to use it, all the missions are aware."
King further explained that the new e-passport is the latest technology introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and is already in use in United States (U.S.), United Kingdom, (UK) India, Malaysia and others. He, however, said that Nigeria is the first country in Africa to embrace the concept.
He said Nigeria accepted the new technology in 2000 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Malaysia.
King added: "The e-passport is designed with some cultural features to make it unique to Nigeria; the major thing about it is the electronic chip that is embedded in it. What the NIS did is to re-design it in such a way that the data page is now the front cover of the passport. It is no longer the loose sheet that we use to have, so you can no longer rebind it without tempering with the cover page, which renders it useless. Tampering with it will affect the fingerprint; it is almost impossible for two persons to have the same fingerprints."
He added that efforts were being made to establish more issuing centres in the country, but that as a pilot project, the issuing centres for now are at Lagos, Abuja and Kano.
He disclosed further: "And for our external missions, we will begin with Washington, London, Johannesburg and New Delhi. The Comptroller-General of Immigration decided to select one country in each continent to make it widespread, we will continue to do so until we cover our entire 52 missions.
"You can no longer have cases of 'look alike' situation, which had hitherto given leverage to some form of fraudulent practices as your finger-print will give you away. It will therefore go a long way in addressing the issue of drug trafficking, human trafficking and Advanced Fee Fraud because all of these are related to travel documents."
By Wole Shadare (Culled from The Guardian)