Some Nigerians in the United States and Ireland have lambasted officials of Nigerian embassies and consulates over alleged extortion and maltreatment in the process of obtaining new passports.
In viral footage shared in June, an official of the Consulate General of Nigeria in Atlanta, United States, was seen in a heated verbal exchange with passport applicants.
Houston-based soccer trainer, Bayonle Arashi, who recorded the brawl at the consulate explained what led to the clash.
He said, “Normally, we get an appointment before going to the embassy but walking into the Nigerian Embassy in Atlanta, you must pay another $110 or more to be attended to.
“I’m just one of those people who went to Atlanta that day. I travelled on the 10th of June, which was a Thursday. So, on Friday morning, at eight, we were already in front of the embassy but there were no officials.
“We later discovered that they only capture the details of applicants on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. We complained to the security officer on duty, querying why the embassy failed to put such vital information on its website.’’
According to Arashi, a couple who were trying to make some inquiries from the security guards on duty were harassed by an embassy official identified as Pius Uhomoibhi, an Administrative Assistant at the consulate.
“This man just started shouting at this couple. Aside from the fact that he was late for work, he was still bullying people. When Uhomoibhi refused to keep quiet, the couple challenged him. That was when the war of words began. When I shared the video about his behaviour, thousands of people that have been to that place for the renewal of their passports started narrating the same experience with this man,” he said.
A Texas-based Nigerian, Victoria Ogunyele, told Sunday PUNCH that despite following the required processes, she paid $440 for a passport that costs $106.
Ogunyele said, “In 2020, I wanted to renew my Nigerian passport. So, I did the application and paid on January 19. After payment, COVID-19 came, everywhere was on lockdown. The appointment date they gave me was April 24, 2020. I called in but unfortunately, they said nothing was happening and that the office was closed.”
The health worker said she inquired about the status of her previous payment when the consulate informed her that it would consider those who paid during the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, when she contacted a staff member of the consulate in September 2020, she was asked to pay an additional $300.
Ogunyele left Texas for Atlanta with her kids on May 23, 2021, which was a Sunday and arrived in Atlanta at about 3:30 pm the same day.
Ogunyele said she had seen a notice on the consulate’s website stating that processing passports would require a money order of $150, noting that she purchased it together with a money order of $30.
According to her, when she presented her documents for screening, a consulate staff member informed her that her prior registration was invalid.
She was then asked to process a fresh application at a makeshift business centre located at some metres from the consulate building.
Ogunyele was also told that her name was not on the list of invited applicants for that day, adding that Uhomoibhi openly asked applicants whose names were not on the list and who could not pay $130 for a walk-in appointment to vacate the premises.
She lamented, “I ended up paying $440 that day. They told me the old pre-COVID-19 application was expired and not useful. Then they made me do a fresh application in a small business centre not far from the main office.”
Ogunyele noted that she met an official who told her that her prior application has still valid and that she needed not do a fresh one.
The Nigerian lamented that she had yet to receive the passport one month after the screening.
Uhomoibhi declined to comment but said he would inform the consulate which he said would assign an official to respond to the allegations but this had not been done as of the time of filing this report.
Also, one Olasunkanmi Adeosun, a Nigerian who resides in Dublin, Ireland, alleged that passport applicants in the European country were also being maltreated.
He said, “I think the most embarrassing thing about going to the Nigerian Embassy here in Dublin is that they’re absolutely rude.
“Even when you are asking questions just to get an idea of what is required from you, they will talk down to you. This was my experience and also that of other people I know.”
The media assistant, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Gabriel Odu, said NiDCOM had yet to receive such complaints from Nigerians in Atlanta and promised to find out about the situation.
The spokesperson, Nigeria Immigration Service, Amos Okpu, declined comment and referred inquiries to the ministry of Foreign Affairs, which does not have a spokesperson yet.