The Nigeria Immigration Service on Tuesday in Abuja reacted to a global ranking that placed the Nigerian passport 98th out of 199 countries; below other African states such as Malawi, Niger, Chad, Zimbabwe, Uganda and The Gambia.
It said although it welcomed the ranking, it is more concerned with Nigerian passport’s compliance with the global standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
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According to details obtained from Henley & Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm, the passport index published quarterly is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest database of travel information.
The recently published Q1 2022 index cross-examined the passports of 199 countries with 227 travel destinations; and ranked these passports based on global access and mobility.
Each passport is scored based on the number of destinations that the holder can access visa-free. This also applies if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority upon entry.
Japan and Singapore topped the ranks with passports gaining access to 192 countries. The United States and the United Kingdom ranked seventh while Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan settled at the bottom five.
Despite emerging 28th globally, the Seychellois passport ranked the highest in Africa, having visa-free access to 152 countries. Botswana and Namibia ranked second and third with 86 and 78 countries, respectively.
Malawi (76th), Niger (90th), Chad (90th) The Gambia (75th), Uganda (76th), Zimbabwe (78th) and Sierra Leone (80th) all ranked above Nigeria and Ethiopia, which tallied at 98th. Despite Nigeria’s position on the list, it rose five places compared to the Q4 2021.
Reacting to the report, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Amos Okpo, argued that visa-free mobility is largely a reflection of bilateral agreements between countries and within regional blocs.
He said, “While we appreciate the work done by Henley & Partners, we are more concerned with deepening our passport technology to meet up with the standards of the ICAO; ensuring that our passport complies with ICAO guidelines.”
Okpo argued that Nigeria has been a Public Key Directory of the ICAO since April 2009 and, therefore, sits in a respectable position in the comity of nations.
According to the ICAO, “the Public Key Directory is a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate electronic Machine-Readable Travel Documents such as e-Passports, electronic ID cards and Visible Digital Seals.”
The directory which acts as a central broker for this information ensures that information adheres to the technical standards required to achieve and maintain interoperability.
Asserting NIS’ position on Henley’s ranking, Okpo said, “What we put more emphasis on here is our standing in the ICAO. When ICAO alerts us of any lapses with our passports, we get to work. Nigeria has been part of the Public Key Directory since 2009 and it took us complying with several passport security specifications to be reflected on that directory.
“This (Henley & Partners) ranking is based on passport admissibility. And that is largely a function of mutual understanding, reciprocity among countries which does not necessarily reflect the true strength of a passport. A good example is the European Union and the ECOWAS,” he said.
He also noted that when Nigeria joined the ICAO’s PKD, there were only 13 member states; New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, the United States of America, Germany, the Republic of Korea, France, China, Kazahkstan and India.
So far, the directory has 82 participant countries, with Mongolia joining in December 2021.