The order by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2019 that the Nigerian passport booklets should be produced locally has not been carried out two years down the line.
It was gathered that the delay was due to the inability of the Ministry of Interior to terminate the contract awarded to Smart Technology Nigeria Limited for the production of the passport booklets.
The firm, Smart Technology Nigeria Limited works in partnership with its parent company, Iris Corporation, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The e-passport booklets are produced in Malaysia, but the Nigeria Immigration Service activates the passport through the biometric data transfer.
It was learnt that the Ministry of Interior and the NIS officials have been holding meetings with ISTL for over one year on the termination or variation of the contract valued at over $138, 443, 740, signed in May 2003.
The unfortunate situation has led to the scarcity of passport booklets as ISTL has reportedly suspended production of the booklets following moves by the Federal Government to cancel its contracts and commence local production of the travel document.
A reliable source said the Federal Government was facing serious legal challenges terminating the contracts which had no terminal date.
The official stated, “What I can tell you authoritatively is that the issue has been enmeshed in some legal tangle which they are trying to untangle. They discovered that previous administrations had committed the country to unfavorable contracts which may even be for life. Everybody has been on tenterhooks over it.
“What the government is doing now is to resolve the legal conundrum and I think they are almost done with it. They would be making arrangements for local producers of the passport (booklets) after sorting out the problem.’’