Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Nigerian Immigration Service (My Passport Re-issue experience)

Hello there, it's been a very long while I know. Nothing deliberate but just how the times feel... but hey you can still find interesting articles here if you scan through and I get comments you leave on here so drop one. Thanks!

So yesterday I went to the passport office at Alausa to complete the application process of my passport reissue which I had started on their website: https://portal.immigration.gov.ng/
I went along with my two children (theirs also expired) who had to miss an entire day of school for this purpose. We got there as early as possible before 8am. We waited under the canopy provided. Soon after we were seated we started hearing worship songs and clapping from one of the office close to us. My son asked if the office was a church. I responded that it was in fact an office and such religious activities were prohibited. I explained to him that many Nigerian offices had a lot of these religious folks who try to extort others and make simple processes difficult. I mentally geared myself up for the long day ahead. It’s been a while that I have had any reason to come to a ‘government’ office.
By 9.00am an officer came to address us. He stated that they officially start at 9. He stated the rules and regulations guiding data capture and passport processing. Afterwards another officer came to call off names of those to proceed to the data capture room from some files. I politely asked an officer who I should approach concerning my application which I had completed online. He directed me to a mallam (in Dogonriga) who subsequently took me to his ‘brother’s desk.  I suspect the mallam is an officer who is not dressed in uniform.This brother will from hereon be my helping officer. Note the word ‘help’. He is the one God used to solve my problem of Nigerian passport application. Note the word ‘problem’ too. They are two very important words when you go to a government office. I showed him my printed documents, he then asked me to ‘talk’ to him. I feigned ignorance of what he wanted. My first mistake. He called a business centre lady on the phone that came and after a few explanations of what is required he asked that I follow the lady. So off we went to the business centre, the next compound to the passport office. The lady ‘assisted’ with files, photocopying, application forms and application letters. I paid more than normal for these services. 

We went back to the man who checked the files and then proceeded to the oga’s office. We followed. The oga checked the documents and signed on them. Then he told us to take the files upstairs for another signature. We did. We came back to the ‘helping officer’. He told us to go sit outside and wait to be called. I gave him some token because the spirit of the office was already ministering to me and I wanted to achieve the purpose for which I had come in good time. Shortly afterwards, he came to call us. While we waited, there was no designated process for knowing when it’s your turn. Different ‘helping’ officers appeared to call their helpee’s names. We went in and joined the queue for the data capture. My children’s data were captured but when it was my turn, my payment could not be verified. I was told to stand aside and retry only for the same thing to show on the system. This took like an hr more. My daughter asked me why my own data could not be captured. I explain mildly to her that the officers wanted me to pay money which I was not really ready to pay (and didn’t have much of at the time). She asked whether I had not paid for the process and I told her I did pay for all three of us on the same day. She was befuddled and I could see her frustration. I tried to hide my own frustrations from her. I quickly gave myself brain and went to my helping officer to complain. He explained that because I paid online there was a need to unify all the payments in their own accounts office and so it was possible that mine wasn’t yet unified. I nodded and begged him to please help me. Y’see I work in a small establishment and had to take a day off to come here so I didn’t want to come back for the same purpose another day. So I had to beg him. In the past I would have created a scene and shouted but I no longer have that kind of energy for Nigeria. I have come to discover that you can’t save a chronically ill person who is not even willing to be saved. By some miracles, when my helping officer came back, my payment was verified and I was able to capture my data. All glory be to my helping officer!

Then came the date for collection of the passport, the last hurdle and he explained the process to me. If I was willing to follow the ‘normal’ process it would take about 3 wks but if I need them earlier then I will need to pay a certain sum he said. I needed my own passport for some work references so I told him 3 wks was too long. I had to go to a nearby ATM to get the money so I can get this over with. I had spent all the money I had on me at this point. By now it was about 2pm.
Y’see, as one grows older and hopefully wiser, you begin to assess if you are expending energy in the right ventures or simply wasting it. I consider myself sane and commonsensical so I no longer dispense energy in fighting corruption within the Nigerian structures (I want to remain sane for a long time for the sake of my children and family members and friends). The corruption is too deep that it consumes even the most upright persons. I now channel my energy to demand the right structures, more manageable ones. Regional autonomy, true fiscal federalism. Remember, I have to pay N145 for a litre of fuel because Nigeria is broke.
 A Facebook friend, Olanike Onyekachi Adexa shared the story of her traumatizing and dehumanizing experience in the hands of the Immigration officers at Abeokuta office. She paid 28k and was still harrassed on top. The official rate for the passport is 17600 on the immigration site.

The 17600 is broken down into
          Passport application: N15000
         Address verification Charges: N2000 (I wonder if any official ever go to verify the address on the application)
         Service Charges N600
Olanike's mistake was that she was asking too many questions and was acting stubborn because she wanted to renew her Nigerian passport. Nigeria has broken me, e jo.  I don’t have power for Nigeria anymore. I won’t protest fuel subsidy removal or deregulation or join to fight corruption. I will however channel the remaining energy in me to demand for regional autonomy and true federalism.

I recall the line in Fela's Power Show:
               Dem go bluff you
               Waste your time
               Run you up
               And then run you down
               Dem go tire your body
              And then tire your mind
              And them tire your whole mind

If you refuse to comply with their exorbitant demands, you must pay with a total waste of your time (they have no value for it and will collect salaries whether or not they attend to you) and mental energy. They will mock you because you are mumu whose crime is that you want to follow due process.

Although technology has been employed (website and payment portal) in many of these Nigerian government services, it has been reduced largely to manual files. And if you do not cooperate, your file will get missing or unattended. There is no way to know the status of your application via the site.This manual process will ensure that you are stripped of your money, dignity and confidence. This same process is what you will face in NNPC, DPR, PPPRA, NipeX, CBN, NAFDAC etc.
The real situation remains what it is regardless of our many social media rants and articles. These government officials are unmoved. They have ogas at the top who will give media interviews to tell of the ‘great’ work their men do. You will just  be left to wonder when you consider your own experiences. New intakes to such offices quickly learn the ropes and even devise better strategies at extorting their customers than their older colleagues.

I am sane, my conscience is still intact but I am growing older and will need to better account for the use of my time and energy. If an OND or SSCE certificate holder is able to make me do what they want in Nigeria with all my BSCs and Post Graduate degrees then I should not fight them because the structure empowered them so. I no longer feel I have the luxury of time to try to fight this system. If I lose my work now, the government will not even pay me 5k for welfare. So I have to borrow myself brain. If with all my education and experience I still pursue something which continues to elude me, I must be a big fool.



  1. Thanks Mary for this post. Indeed we live and learn. As we grow older I pray that the right tools to build a country that will not sap the energy of its people and will direct the latent creativity to productive ventures will be unleashed.

    1. That place is one of the most disorganised, inefficient and frustrating place you can ever be on earth. I had a worse experience but won't go into details. Imagine one officer told me to be there before 12noon for data capture because once it's 12noon....the internet will become epileptic. Couldn't believe that!!! When you now attend a US visa interview and you see things been done orderly, you can't but wonder where we got it wrong in this nation. For the sake of sanity, let everyone create it's semblance around his or her abode. We still got a long way to go.

    2. Yes Femi Osikoya. My (our) heart longs for a country that works. But Nigeria has been designed the way it is so that we remain in one spot for as long as possible so that hawks and vultures from different parts of the world can have some bites of our natural and human resources for very little compensation. It is very frustrating indeed.

    3. Omoakin, quite frustrating indeed. I think where it went wrong is the amalgamation of different peoples together forcefully creating interests for a few (colonialists and subsequently neocolonialists). Nigeria was not designed to work in the interest of the people who comprise it.

  2. When we travel abroad, we marvel at the good roads, electricity,schools, etcetera. Our rulers see these things. But then, greed and monumental avarice, the type that plagued Obi Okonkwo in No Longer At Ease, sadly has brought us down to our knees. Corruption in high and low places is the order of the day.

    1. I don't see anything changing if the Nigeria structures remain as is Omodunni.

  3. Hello Mary...I pray all is well. Thanks for this post.As you know corruption is everywhere...I pray one day the powers that be will finally reap what they have sown. My family and I plan to visit Africa next year...I will email you for any advice you may have on our journey. As always Be Blessed!

  4. Hello Gumbo, thanks for your comment! And compliments of the season to you.
    I am doing pretty well with my family. We try to keep our heads above the waters around here. And amen to that prayer of yours.

    Whenever you are set to come to Mama Africa, let me know and I will be glad to offer any suggestions that will make your experience worthwhile.