The Federal Government has said charges and levies imposed on Nigerians in diaspora at the foreign missions are due to paucity of funds to run operations.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema; and Controller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammed Babandede, who both appeared before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs in Abuja on Tuesday explained how they were addressing issues affecting Nigerians in other countries.
At the two-day investigative hearing organised by the committee, which began on Tuesday, Onyema noted that the charges had been in existence and were only suspended.
The minister said, “The $100 they (Nigerians in the US) said has been added is voluntary; it is just for those who want to have their biometrics done without an appointment. If you wait for your appointment, you will get it (done) and not pay. But if you want it the same day, then pay $100.”
Onyema also said his ministry planned to make Nigerians in diaspora have access to a 24/7 call centre in Nigeria which would take complaints from across the world.
In his presentation, the CG of the NIS decried the shortage of passport booklets, which he described as the biggest challenge facing the service.
Babandede said, “The passport is the biggest challenge. When we talk about passports, the challenges are ours; some of the challenges are with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and some are with Nigerians themselves. On our side, we have the huge challenge of scarcity of passport booklets.”
He lamented that the NIS had only 47 offices across Nigeria despite the huge population of the country.
The Chairman/Chief Executive of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, noted that the presentations by Babandede and Onyema “have shed a lot of light on happenings and innovations going on in immigration.”
“We are going to set up a NIDCOM app which can be downloaded by all Nigerians in diaspora to even bring in their complaints and all. Also, the diaspora commission is very soon going to launch an Internet radio, where we are going to have communication all the time with our brothers and sisters in diaspora. So, the key thing is communication.”