Nigerian groups in Italy, The Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Europe, Italy Chapter (NIDOE) and The National Union of Nigerian Associations in Italy (NUNAI), are currently not in agreement with the number of Nigerian citizens living in the country.
The NIDOE had stated that about 1.5 million out of its three million registered members in Italy are affected by scarcity of Nigerian passports.
According to thenewsguru.com, the chapter’s Chairman, Mr George Omo-Iduhon, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday.
NAN quoted Omo-Iduhon as saying that there are more Nigerians in Italy than in other European countries and the registered Nigerians according to database are three million, apart from the undocumented ones.
He said, “One of the major problems being faced by Nigerians living in Italy is shortage of Nigerian passports that can help facilitate their movement and work permit.
“The Nigerian government should help address this problem because Italy serves as the gateway to other countries in Europe, especially for Nigerians.
“About 1.5 million Nigerians in Italy don’t have passports, even some of those that have been accepted by the Italian government have not been issued Nigerian passports which makes it difficult for them to work.”
Omo-Iduhon said the supply of 500 booklets of passport to the Nigerian Embassy in Italy was grossly inadequate to serve the number of Nigerians resident in Italy.
“Using the same sharing formula for all the counties in Europe cannot work in Italy where we have more Nigerians.
“We are appealing to the relevant government agencies and the Minister for Internal Affairs, Rauf Aregbesola, to help us address this issue,” he said.
He said the organisation was committed to growing Nigeria’s economy, adding that members must try their best to return home to build Nigeria.
But the NUNAI in a swift reaction stated that figure affirmed by NIDOE is inaccurate describing the report as misleading.
According to thenewsguru.com, NUNAI says the Federal Government is already responding to its appeal for the supply of passport booklets to the Embassy in Italy.
NUNAI confirmed this in a video interview with journalists on Tuesday in Abuja, debunking recent media publication that over 1.5 million Nigerians are yet to be issued their passports.
Frank David, Secretary of NUNAI, who described the recent report as a fallacy, said the total number of Nigerians in Italy are not up to a million.
David said it is however impossible for over one million Nigerians supposedly living in Italy to be stranded for lack of passport.
He noted that currently, there are 209,000 Nigerians in Italy, 180,000 are legally documented with 29,000 yet to be documented.
David said that as much as NUNAI, the umbrella body of all Nigerian Associations in Italy will continue to appeal to the Federal Government for regular Supply of booklets, they also appreciate the intervention so far.
“The publication by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) which claims that 1.5 million Nigerians in Italy are in need of passport booklets in Italy is a fallacy and we debunk such claims.
“The population of Nigerians in Italy is not up to one million. And on the issue of passport, yes there are requests for people who need to renew their passports or get fresh passports.
“But the mission has captured thousands of Nigerians who are having issues with passport in the past months and that is a great deal.
“There was an intervention about three months ago, especially in my own city, Modena, we were able to capture about 250 people, we went to another city called Pesaro and we were able to capture 138 people.
“We went to another city which I supervised and they were able to capture over 170 people. So, if you sum all these figures up you will get about a thousand.
“Be that as it may, there are other cities that need to be covered and that is not to say that they are up to a million. I stand to debunk that any day, any time.
NUNAI as it were is the umbrella body of all Associations in Italy which NIDO should be part of, and NUNAI has been working with Embassies long before the existence of NIDO in Italy.
“I wouldn’t want to speak more in favour or in criticism of NIDO because I do not know their modus of operandi and how they got their information.
“NUNAI has been in the forefront of issues that concerns Nigerians in Italy, in terms of welfare, in term of documentation, we have been working assiduously in collaboration with Embassies,” David said.
Mr Mike Oputteh, Welfare Officer of NUNAI, also appreciated the federal government, the Nigerian Ambassador to Italy, Mfawa Abam, and the Immigration attache to the Mission for their response.
Oputteh said that Amb. Abam and the Immigration Attaché to the mission have been working tirelessly to ensure the challenges of scarcity of passports is solved to ameliorate the plight of Nigerians living in Italy.
“We are all aware of the challenges the Nigeria Immigration Service is experiencing, which is not only affecting Nigerians in Italy but even those living in Abuja.
“The supply of booklets to Italy is not regular, but there are cases where the Embassy gets 1,000, gets 500, gets 2,000.
“After we have made a passionate appeal to the two Ministers, the Comptroller General of Immigration, we have started getting supply.
“Before the Christmas we got supply of about 1,500 because I work closely with the Immigration and they promised to give us more, they are talking of giving us 10,000 booklets to clear the backlog.
“There is an improvement, and the Immigration and the Nigerian mission is working but more need to be done because Nigerians have to renew their passports and get new ones.
“I am using this medium to continue to appeal to the Minister of Interior who have been supporting NUNAI, the Foreign Minister, the Comptroller General of Immigration to please continue to supply us booklets.
“At least if we can be getting regular supply of 2,000 booklets monthly, it will help us clear backlog but for now, we do not have regular supply,” Oputteh said.