Reps Wade In On Scarcity Of Nigerian Passport Booklets

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…Fix N100, 000 As Penalty For Abuse Of National Flag

The House of Representatives yesterday,  urged the federal government to urgently address the challenges being faced by the supplier of passport booklet and devise sustainable means to ensure worldwide availability.

It also mandated its committee on interior to liaise with the ministry of interior and the Nigerian Immigration Service to determine the cause of the scarcity of passport booklets, recommend ways of reversing the trend.

The resolution is consequent on a motion on the need to address the scarcity of Nigerian passport booklets moved by Hon. Ayodeji Adebayo Joseph.

Adebayo in his debate noted with concern the untold hardship the scarcity has brought upon Nigerians who wish to acquire passport, recalled that the scarcity started in 2016 when the company stopped supplying the 32-page passport booklet and demanded for an upward review of the price of the booklet, citing increased cost of production due to low exchange rate of naira to the dollar.

The lawmaker also noted the series of complaints of lack of proper procedure for the procurement and renewal of passports at Nigeria’s High Commissions and Embassies abroad as well as inefficiency of staff of those missions.

Supporting the motion, Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari who said that the problem has lingered for too long, lamented that importance is yet to be place on the scarcity of bookl.

Shagari stressed the need to tackle it as a passport serves more than a travel document.

“This scarcity has lingered for a while now adequate attention and importance has not been given to it.

“A passport is more than just a travel document. It is need for so many things especially when you travel out of the country. It is a major form of identification.

“So many students who are due for study abroad cannot proceed because of this problem. And if you look at the problem associated with it, you would appreciate it as well as the inconveniences of an expired passport out their”, Shagari stated.

On her part, the chairperson of the committee on foreign relations, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje who said that the problem has to due to do with manufacturers and supply, stated the the ministry of interior is to be held responsible for the scarcity adding that the non-availability of booklets has put untold pressure on Nigerian embassies across the world.

She however informed that the committee was in talks with the ministry of foreign affairs over the matter adding that the House will be briefed on the outcome.

The committee on foreign relations is also to liaise with the foreign affairs ministry to investigate the challenges being faced in the procurement of the e-passport at Nigerians High Commissions and Embassies as mandated by the House.

The House also yesterday read for a second time, a Bill seeking to provide N100, 000 fine for anyone caught distorting and abusing the country’s national flag.

Sponsored by Hon. Sam Onuigbo, the bill designed to amend Flag and Coat of Arms Act 2004 will make further provisions to preserve the country’s national heritage.

In his lead debate, Onuigbo explained that the bill seeks to amend section 7 of the principal Act by inserting new paragraphs to provide for stiffer penalties for offenders.

He recalled that there had been surreptitious efforts in the past to change the national flag as many public and government offices construct the Coat-of Arms on it.

The lawmaker also noted the need to declare that any addition, subtraction or super imposition outside the version designed by Pa Michael Akinkunmi in 1959 is not the Nigerian flag.

According to the lawmaker, Section 10 of the principal Act is amended by removing the fine of N100 and replacing same with the sum of N100, 000.

“Any person who flies or exhibits the national flag which is deconstructed, thereby creating an impression of using the national flag, where actually the flag is deconstructed shall be guilty of an offence against the Act.

“Similarly, any person who uses the National Coat of Arm and inserts same into the National Flag thereby creating an illegal form of our national flag shall be guilty of an offence against this act”, Onuigbo said.

Similarly, Hon. Nicholas Ossai who chided government offices that violate the Act, described the distortion of the national flag as disrespect for the national pride and added that violation of the Act amounts to infringement on what the national flag sets to achieve.

On his part, Hon. Kingsley Chinda called the need to raise the consciousness of citizens on protecting the country’s national pride even as he advocated stiffer penalty for the offenders.

“The abuse of the National Flag and Coat of Arm is criminal and offenders should be adequately punished”, Chinda submitted.

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