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Nigerian Embassies and Passport rackets affect citizens in Diaspora – Tola Adenle

Difficulty in renewing or obtaining new Nigerian passport by our citizens abroad started several years ago.  In fact, I first learnt of it in the mid-90s.    It is possible it had started earlier but it first came to my notice around 1993 when a young woman in England had problems renewing her passport.

Earlier in ’89 not too long after my family had checked out into self exile with the mythical Nigerian “Andrew”, a relation had had his hand luggage stolen at Kennedy Airport.  It was a very cold winter day and in the shock that the blast had delivered to somebody coming from the heat of a Nigerian February, he had run back inside to pick another of his luggage, leaving the carry-on for just a very short time.  Before he returned outside – probably less than fifty feet and the glass door that separated him and his cherished carry-on – it was gone;  so were his Nigerian passport and many other valuables.

I do remember well that my I was still at our first abode with our kids during the Andrian years at our old haunt, Washington, D.C., and the relation and I were able to take care of the passport problem at the Embassy.  He easily got a replacement or a travel document that enabled him process another on his return to Nigeria.  The Consular staff we dealt with were also very civil and very helpful.

Fast forward about a decade and Nigeria’s descent into utter chaotic and intractable corruption was well on its way.  The child of a friend who needed to travel to Nigeria from D.C. could not get a passport for her new-born because “the covers for new passports were not available.”  She eventually had to apply for the baby’s U.S. passport, an application that she mailed and secured a brand new passport all within a week-and-a-half after mailing off the application.

Since that time, I’ve come across many Nigerian citizens who continue to tell horror stories from the Nigerian embassies in D.C. and London as well as Consular offices.  I am not aware of the situations in Nigeria’s other consular posts and embassies.  Just as in the home country, “civil” servants on diplomatic postings as well as their underpaid non-home based staff, i.e. locally-recruited, have perfected ways of demanding and receiving what are – no matter how couched – bribes.  Anyone who has ever had cause to do business with Nigerian Police must have heard the euphemisms – we need X Naira to buy paper to write the “charge sheet”, etcetera.

Many Nigerian youth who have dual citizenships have learnt to pay to obtain visas to visit their fatherland.  The question is:  why must this be?

In the sixty-plus days that Dr. Jonathan has been sworn in as president, the problem has gotten worse.  With the “fresh air” that he promised in his electioneering billboards, I think a thorough cleansing of Nigerian embassies and consular offices around the world is a first step.  This is because many foreign nationals also have problems – not of qualifications for visas – in getting Nigerian visas.  The embassies are Nigeria’s first face to the outside world, and that face is very ugly.

This is one problem that Jonathan does not need position papers, a panel or any time-wasting government bureaucracy on; neither does it need tons of money to stop this sleaze with enough stench to add to the polluted air of Nigeria.

For a start, one of those zillions of aides at Aso Rock could be made to take charge of complaints to be filed electronically.  The president can set a limit per post of complaints concerning absence of passport covers, say, a dozen, after which the Consular Officer is queried.  The next group should bring him/her back to Abuja – for good.

Many of Nigeria’s problems are not unsolvable but they need a president determined to live up to his campaign promises.  While at it, may I suggest that the president also extends the house-cleaning job to passport offices in each state capital of Nigeria?  The stench in these places is enough to wake up the dead.

I understand Ms. Abike Dabiri who has been in the House since 1999 heads – or headed – Diaspora affairs. I do not know if, during one of the many numerous trips she takes abroad on diaspora matters, she has been aware of this serious problems.  A Nigerian student abroad who needs to visit home should not have to pay a hundred GB Pounds to get a visa on her U.S., British or other passport to which dual citizenship entitles him/her because he/she cannot renew his/her Nigerian passport even if submitted two months ahead of a planned trip.

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3 Comments on “Nigerian Embassies and Passport rackets affect citizens in Diaspora – Tola Adenle”

  1. Ajipeya Afunleyin Says:

    FRAUDS OF DIFFERENT KINDS: Passport covers, retired civil servants who refuse to leave service for younger people, etc.

    Corruption and fraud in Nigeria have become so pronounced that even the Nigerian Government several years ago proclaimed a decree for it – decree 419. After about a decade sojourn abroad I started seeing on some houses “this house is not for sale, beware of 419”. I was baffled about this.

    The civil servants have now been christened “evil servants” by many of their fellow citizens because of their evil ways – telling lies about availability of one govt. form or another – like the one you have written about here. The moment a person who needs a govt. form comes up with the right price, the form will manifest it self from nowhere. A foreign consultant remarked recently that if Nigerians can direct their ingenuity towards positive things our nation will surpass South Korea, etc.

    Right now a new fraud is developing fast at the Federal level and if not checked it is going to engulf the States. Retirees are now working as “consultants” in their various ministries at a much higher pay and virtually not adding any value to the work of such ministries. There are two angles to look at this. 1. If they are as good as they are being treated they would not have worked till they retire but would have gone out and started consultancy companies in their productive years. 2/ Younger people who should bring fresh ideas are not getting the opportunities to serve their country/ Therefore, this is job for the boys and girls sort of. Retirement is supposed to infuse fresh blood into the service. But this fraudulent back door practice is resulting in keeping dead woods in service until they “transit to higher glory”.

    How d’you solve a problem like Nigeria?

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    • emotan77 Says:

      Mr. Ajipeya, Thanks for all the important points raised here. In fact, I’m going to see if I can work on a story about these Federal retirees who are still pretending at laboring in government’s employ while drawing big pay checks. Or, do you think you could work on an essay for this Blog? Meanwhile, I’m taking the liberty to post your comments as a story so that it can get a wider audience and, perhaps, comments. That will be on Wednesday, August 10. Thanks, TOLA.

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  1. What of federal civil (evil) servants who retire but do not leave the service? | - August 10, 2011

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