ECOWAS, Nigeria look to ease travel with biometric card, faster passport issuance – Biometric Update

The Federal Government of Nigeria is to launch a new passport application process that will dramatically speed up the procedure as the country’s Immigration Service announces the replacement of ECOWAS travel certificates with biometric cards.
The new passport application will have a six-week target due to new technology, reports Nigerian Observer News. The new online application portal should mean that applicants no longer need to visit immigration offices in person and can undertake the process wherever they are in the world.
People can upload a photo from their smartphones or tablet and should be able to navigate the application in around ten minutes.
The new scheme aims to have better integration with other government databases for verifying application information with face biometrics. New public-private centres are being opened (one so far in Abuja and 10 more in coming weeks) as places to access Ministry of Interior services, states the article.
People will be able to submit applications and pick up passports. All passport offices will run on a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to fraud and will have special staff whether in uniform or plainclothed and with body cams to reduce extortion in passport applications.
Authorities are also trying to clear a backlog of 45,000 uncollected passports.
Nigerian media is also reporting that ECOWAS travel certificates will soon be replaced with biometric cards.
Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede, announced the update with details later confirmed by an NIS spokesperson. Individuals’ data will be embedded in the biometric card and this would allow countries such as Nigeria to get more information on who is entering the country.
Ghana’s national biometric ID card already functions as a valid travel document in the ECOWAS region, and the country is planning to extend its validity as a travel document beyond West Africa.
The Africa Report has compiled a series of infographics on African passports, their costs, ‘power’ and manufacturers.
The average cost is $60, but ranges from $9 in Egypt to $194 in Cameroon. Their ‘power’ also varies wildly, despite the wide-spread adoption of modern passports embedded with chips containing biometric data. The Seychelles takes the lead allowing entry to 105 countries, placing in 22nd worldwide, whereas Somalia comes in last, allowing access to eight countries without a visa and 26 more with a visa on arrival.
French and Belgian companies dominate the contracts for providing the documents. A map divides the continent into areas covered by Thales, Idemia, Zetes and Semlex. German companies Muhlbauer and Veridos also cover numerous countries.
The map also allows readers to locate various passport scandals such as the reported lack of public tender in the RDC when awarding Semlex the biometric passport contract.
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