MY ORDEAL AT THE NIGERIA HIGH COMMISSION, OTTAWA, CANADA

Issues and information related to travel to and from Nigeria.

MY ORDEAL AT THE NIGERIA HIGH COMMISSION, OTTAWA, CANADA

Postby Richard Akindele » Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:57 pm

I am Rudolf. I am Edna’s husband, her Oga as you often called me.

Have you ever had dealing with any overseas Nigeria High Commission? How was your experience? Well, mine wasn't too bad in Ottawa. My experience has underlined the fact that defective service delivery, which many of our government institutions at home have carved notoriety, also rears its ugly head at Nigeria High Commissions abroad. So it means no matter the location on the globe, for many Nigeria Government institutions, it is business-as-usual and, in many cases, sheer disregard for Nigerian citizens.

My offence? Well, I submitted my Nigerian Passport for renewal. The passport was issued in Ibadan in March 2003 and would expire end of March 2008. Putting the 'Nigeria factor' into consideration, I submitted my passport early enough in January 2008 to forestall having to wait on my passport for too long. After two weeks of sending in the passport, there was neither acknowledgement letter nor confirmation of the receipt from the High Commission. I wasn't even sure if the passport was even received! So you can imagine the level of fear that crept into me when I reflected on the ordeals which two of my friends faced in Europe when they lost their passports. Thieves had broken into the apartments of these two guys, who were students at that time, and made away with their passports and other valuables. They got the shock of their lives when they got to the Nigeria High Commission in Amsterdam. Embassy officials heartlessly embarrassed them, calling them bad names and refused to listen to their cases, despite a police report. No help whatsoever came from the Embassy until Amsterdam Police caught two Nigerians trying to use those passports to travel from Amsterdam to London, three weeks later.

Anyway, I decided to call the Embassy after three weeks into the waiting game. First, I was not impressed by the lady's voice programmed to give information about the Embassy, hours of operation and services. Her voice is very sharp and coarse. She speaks as if she is either annoyed, forced to speak against her own will or just finished quarrelling with someone. In my own opinion, that voice should be changed to something that is more visitor-friendly, calm and welcoming. In the same vein, the Nigeria Immigration Service's method of mandating applicants to use 'Google checkout' as a way of paying application fees over the Internet should also be changed to something more secure and professional. For me personally, I always feel uneasy to supply my credit card information even on secure websites over the Internet, let alone 'Google checkout'. This system should be changed immediately.

Continuing my ordeal, I pressed 'one' for the extension to the visa and passport section of the Embassy. The voicemail at the other end simply said 'Kevin' (or Kelvin). Well, whoever he is, I think he should be taught the etiquette of staying in his office, or at least picking his phone whenever he is there and it rings! According to their opening hours, the consular and passport section opens between 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. To my chagrin, I was never at any time successful in speaking one-on-one with Mr. Kevin during these times. He was always unavailable for some unknown reasons.

After couple of calls a day, I was finally able to get hold of the receptionist one day. She said she would transfer me to the Visa and Passport Section. Again, I could not get hold of Kevin and so I pressed 'zero' to return back to her. I told her who I was, my business with the Embassy and how I had been trying to get hold of Kevin. After she learnt that I had fulfilled all the requirements to have my passport renewed, she said if passports were delayed after all requirements had been met, it meant that the applicant needed to send a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (SASE). And she added to my own amazement, "You don't expect the High Commission to use its own money to send your passport back to you, do you?" I couldn't believe what she just said! I told her that I didn't read that as part of the requirements according to the Embassy's website. She matter-of-factly told me to do it anyway, saying I should write a letter to the Embassy, stating that I 'forgot' to enclose a SASE in my earlier application. I pointed her to the fact that I didn't 'forget' but that the information wasn't just put on their website - then she flared up. She raised her voice high to repeat her instructions - making me feel like someone within the threshold of deafness. I tried to calm her down but she was just raging on. When I realized I was probably dealing with a wounded lioness, I decided to soft-pedal. After all, what's the use of talking back and forth with someone who is either too inexperienced to deal with the public, trying to turn people into liars against their own will or just treating me with levity because I am a Nigerian?

After I thought through everything again, I decided to send in the SASE because when you deal with the Nigeria Government at any level, and you are a Nigerian, be rest assured that the dignity you deserve might eventually elude you when you deserve it most. Unfortunately, many Nigeria governments believe their citizens are always second-class, to which they are not accountable. Or if accountable, responsible. This is a sad phenomenon that needs to be looked into and rectified by all government departments and parastatals engaged in this kind of ignominy.

Knowing what's 'delaying' my passport, I raced to the nearest post office in Toronto to buy a SASE. The postal agent asked me for which purpose, and I told her it was required by an embassy. She prodded me further just to ensure I got the right service, and I said it was required by the Nigeria Embassy in order for them to return my passport to me. Then she exclaimed! For two reasons. One, she said in her 22 years of working experience as a postal agent, she had never heard of this method. She said the normal practice is that embassies usually include the postage fee as part of the application fee. She opined that this Nigerian 'method' is not professional (Well…I was being told what I'd already known). Two, as a better alternative to SASE, she encouraged me to buy a prepaid Express Post that usually carries a tracking number, which I eventually did. Afterwards, I enclosed the Express Post in another envelope and included a small note for the Embassy simply reading, 'I am sending this prepaid Express Post because I wasn't told it's a requirement when applying for my passport renewal. This information was later brought to my attention by your receptionist after my application had already been submitted. Thank you'.

Finally, after four weeks into this Ottawa 'stampede', the dust finally settled. I received the much-awaited good news, out of the blue. My passport came back, renewed. And I started thinking how long it would have taken the High Commission to get back to me if I hadn't been proactive. Eight weeks? Twelve weeks? And what of if I tried to argue why I should pay additional fee for postage? Well, may be eternity. I hereby call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to reform our High Commissions abroad and rid them of all undesirable elements and shoddy services. The Federal Government should do this urgently and conscientiously as a matter of public policy - unless it's a matter of 'like father, like son'.
Richard Akindele
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Postby fw12 » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:44 pm

The interesting thing about this article is how easily the return postage can be handled.

- First the embassy adds the cost of return postage to the total cost of visa/passport service.

- The embassy can order envelopes and mailing materials from the post office, or courier service. Such materials are free, and also delivered to the embassy free of charge.

- Finally, all postage can be paid online. There is no need for an embassy employee to visit the post office to mail anything.

Given how easy it is to handle this issue, why is the embassy so incompetent?

Well, the answer lies in the fact that most embassy staff are ignorant of possibilities in their resident country. Just because somebody works at an American consulate, does not mean that he or she knows how things are done in America.

Also, these people are the most arrogant people ever. They treat Nigerians like dirt.

Since we have nowhere else to go for these services, we have no choice than suck it up.

Hopefully, by shedding light on it like this online, people in position of power would institute necessary changes.
fw12
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urgent enquiry!

Postby yinkmuphy2008 » Sat Jan 12, 2013 8:58 pm

Its my first time on the forum and I'm in urgent need of an answer. I applied for a uk visa alongside my elder sister,her husband and four kids. On the application form,my brother inlaw is to b responsible for my trip I.e,he's my sponsor and we're billed to travel in April. My question now is,can I travel without the family in feb to come back march before we now proceed on the family trip? If I travel without the family,will I have any problems at the poe?pls I need an urgent answer to these questions. I wouuld like to add that I'm female nd I'm married with a kid. Thou on my application form I'm said to b unemployed. Pls I'm looking foward to a favurable advice from the forum
yinkmuphy2008
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