The number of passports issued by the Nigeria Immigration Service rose by 38 per cent between 2020 and 2021, The PUNCH observed.
This is an increase from 767,164 to 1,059,607 passports issued in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
According to data obtained from the NIS, the passport types ranged from standard, official, diplomatic, emergency travel certificates and refugee passports or conventional travel documents.
A breakdown of that number revealed that out of the total passports issued in 2020, 761,825 were standard; 2,024 were official; 444 were diplomatic, and 2,871 were ETCs.
In 2021, the NIS issued 1,041,537 standard passports, 2,811 official passports, 895 diplomatic passports, 14,214 ETCs and 150 refugee passports.
That’s about 2,081 and 2,853 passports issued every 24 hours in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
For the period under review, the United Kingdom immigration report showed that 13,609 Nigerian healthcare workers were granted working visas. This is second only to India with 42,966 practitioners.
According to the Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey 2021 taken by the African Polling Institute, seven out of 10 Nigerians were eager to leave their country if offered the opportunity.
Also, a World Bank survey taken that year revealed that 56,000 more Nigerians were leaving the country yearly than arriving.
Further checks showed that over 19,000 skilled work and study UK visas were issued to Nigerians in 2019. In 2021, however, that number rose by 210 per cent, 59,000.
More so, 12,595 Nigerians emigrated to Canada in 2019 alone, according to data obtained from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. That year, the NIS dished out 1,198,274 passports, which was daily average of 3,282 passports.
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Closer observation of Nigerians fleeing the country revealed a rich mix of professionals such as academics, medical doctors, nurses and technology experts who are reportedly resigning from their roles in many local banks and leveraging the UK’s skilled work visas or its equivalent in other countries of their choice.
More citizens are also leaving the country through the study route, obtaining study visas mostly in the UK, Canada and the United States.
Speaking with The PUNCH, the Executive Director of Adopt A Goal Initiative, Mr Ariyo-Dare Atoye, argued that the rising number of Nigerians obtaining passports was closely connected to the high emigration rate occasioned by the harsh economic realities and security challenges of the past decade.
Nonetheless, the new passport regime launched mid last year might also be a contributing factor to the ease of passport issuance to many applicants.
According to him, that number would continue to rise if the country failed to elect credible leaders in the forthcoming elections. “Numbers don’t lie,” he said.
“Check the statistics of the Nigerian Medical Association and see how many doctors have left in the last two years. Many Nigerians used the pandemic lockdown to look for openings globally. They searched for jobs and other opportunities around the world and a lot of people succeeded in securing one opportunity or the other. So, when the lockdown was lifted for people to travel, they started seizing the opportunity. And we’re likely to see more Nigerians moving.
“We will see a reduction in this only if we get the right leadership in 2023. But as we speak, the trigger is not because of the efficient system that has been put in place by the Nigerian Immigration Service. Rather, it is because many Nigerians are leaving this country. Tired of the situation at home, they look for opportunities elsewhere,” he added.
Also speaking with our correspondent, activist and Convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, said many citizens who remained in the country were only marking time before their eventual exit.
“Nigerians are fed up with the system. That’s why they are leaving the country, and more people are going to leave the country if the next election does not turn out favourably. You can see the interest of the young people in the election.
“As currently constituted today, Nigeria is like a concentration camp. And if you doubt me, let the UK, in the spirit of the Queen’s death, offer visa-free access to Nigerians for one week and see how many people will move,” Adeyanju said.