Determined to make all the difference, Minister of Interior Olubunmi Tunji- Ojo deserves accolades for breathing new life into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) through effective application of neo Technology in the issuance of passports. Tunji-Ojo has spent only about two months on the job and we all can feel his presence.
Before him, obtaining a Nigerian passport was like walking across the Sahara desert, from Niger Republic to Libya, without water. The good news is that things are no longer the same. The will to change the system is all people in power need, not political correctness. The minister understands Nigerian politics, having served as Honourable Member of the House of Representatives from 2019 to 2023.
He also belongs to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). His predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, a member of the same party, APC, spent four years in office but could not exactly effect the much desired change. During the Aregbesola years, the tenure of the Comptroller General of NIS was elongated, without much being achieved at the Passport office. The difference is that Tunji-Ojo has applied expertise at the appropriate time.
With a first degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and post graduate qualifications in Digital Communications Networking, there is nothing Greek to the minister about speed. Tunji-Ojo promised to clear the backlog of passport applications that ushered him into office. Under previous administrations, Passport Offices were in Olympic competition with snails.
Provision of internet facilities did not mean much as citizens were compelled to form a mammoth crowd in the bid to obtain or renew the relevant travelling document. The situation on ground was so bad even for Nigerians living overseas. In the whole of Canada, from Ottawa to Ontario, extend- ing to Manitoba, Montreal, New Brunswick, Vancouver and Winnipeg, there is only one Passport Office.
In the United Kingdom, there are about 10, 000 Nigerian medical doctors. The import is that no other country outside Britain has more health workers than Nigeria. If you add this number to other professionals and students, the huge population cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, they must all come to London, individually, to sort out passport issues. The United States is more frustrating. Diasporans are offered merry go round treatment simply because of the simple task of passport renewal.
This appalling record involves mail despatch, tally number, scheduled and rescheduled interviews, delays and loss of time. The Minister of Interior has made a firm promise that by February 2024, more Passport Offices will be established globally. What could not be achieved in 24 years of the Fourth Republic has been dealt with in 24 hours by a new broom that sweeps clean. We will not spare words in eulogising Tunji-Ojo. Many before him met the same impediments but did virtually nothing to remedy the situation.
Experience, they say, is the best of school masters. Some politicians do not learn. The minister must have experienced the torture of obtaining or renewing passport when he left the Obafemi Awolowo Univer- sity, Ile Ife in 2002 to continue with his studies in North London. He graduated from London Metropolitan University in 2005 and stayed behind for higher achievement in 2006. The result of that experience is the change Tunji- Ojo has brought to the Interior ministry and the NIS.
An ICT expert, he was Chief Executive Officer of Matrix IT Solutions Limited. The minister is Certified in Ethical Hacking and Counter Measures. This is not a man that you will bamboozle with the computer because he speaks the language of electronics. You cannot sit down in one cosy Passport Office, manufacture imaginary glitches and expect silence from an expert.
We eagerly await more innovations as Tunji-Ojo settles down. His office oversees other paramilitary agencies like the Nigerian Correctional Services, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Fire Service. Perhaps, we have come to an era when oil pipelines will be digitalised and monitored with technology. Vandals and thieves who have milked the economy dry will not be comfortable anymore.
Those who connive with them using surveillance as cover will be exposed. Tunji-Ojo must also sani- tise the National Identity Management Commission. It is criminal that many citizens still cannot be properly registered after five years of application while foreigners brandish Nigerian identity.