Labour leaders have rejected the planned increase of fees to be paid by Nigerians to secure a new passport.
Late last year, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) announced that the new e-passport, to be valid for 10 years, would cost N70, 000, with effect from March 4.
The president launched the new set of Nigerian passports early this month.
Buhari performed the ceremony at a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Buhari was immediately issued his own 10-year validity passport, by the Comptroller General of NIS, Mohammad Babandede. Thereafter, Babandede explained to State House Correspondents that the new passports have enhanced features which would make them easier for security management. He said the new passport with 32 pages will cost N25,000 and $130 abroad; the 64 pages with five years expiration time will cost N35,000 and $150 abroad while the 64 pages with 10 years validity will cost N70,000 in Nigeria and $230 abroad.
The labour leaders, who spoke in Lagos, yesterday, said many workers would not be able to travel abroad unless the fee is reviewed downwards.Deputy General Secretary of the United Labour Congress, Mr. Chris Onyeka, said it is insensitive to increase the price of travel documents at a time Nigerians are contending with economic challenges.
“Government finds it difficult to pay N30,000 to workers, but it is easy to increase the cost of getting a passport from N22,000 to N70,000. The fact that the NIS has extended the number of years from five to 10 years is not a good reason to triple the cost of the passport.”
Onyeka pleaded with the NIS to reduce the price to N40, 000 or N50, 000; to enable the citizenry afford the document.
“It will be difficult for Nigerians to travel with the new price and this development will hamper their fundamental human rights,” he said.
President of the National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Product Employees, Mr. Olagoke Olatunji, also condemned the new fee and appealed for a downward review. Olatunji noted that it would take a worker on the current N18, 000 minimum wage up to four months’ salary to be able to acquire a passport with the new price.
Similarly, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), in a statement, said it was insensitive on the part of the NIS to hike passport fees at this point in time.
“The Congress condemns in its entirety what the NIS has proposed and we may adopt any measure we consider right to ensure that the new international passport does not exceed N50, 000.”
TUC President, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, and the Secretary of the body, Mr. Musa Lawal-Ozigi, in the statement, said if allowed to scale through, civil servants would save their salaries for three months with the new minimum wage to be able to pay for a passport.
“What about feeding, rent, school fees and other utilities? This will not work. We appeal to the NIS to look into the matter.”
Regardless, “the new passport reform programme is weather-friendly, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) compliant, it has polycarbonate technology that eliminates damage, enhanced security features and save Nigerians in the Diaspora time of frequent visit to Nigerian Embassy, among others,” Babandede said at the launch.