Tinubu Could be the President who Transforms Nigeria’s Embassies Around the World
Nigerians Living Abroad Face Hell with Their Diplomatic Mission
It was a nine-hour train ride from Inverness, Scotland, to London, England. A Nigerian whose name is withheld came down to London to replace a lost passport. He had called countless times, but either no one picked up or the phone got hung up on him. At his arrival at the diplomatic mission in London, he stood outside in the rain for hours until he was let in, only to be scolded, talked down to, and sent packing because this person had lived in Scotland for over 30 years and was not familiar with the electronic changes that had been implemented. He was astounded, drained, and felt empty.
Another Nigerian in Munich, Germany, took the German ICE train five hours into Berlin. Upon arrival, he was treated like a nuisance; the passport price was overblown against the Nigerian official fee; kickbacks were solicited; and this Nigerian ended up spending a few nights in Berlin, moving back and forth to the embassy, trying to obtain a passport, which was his right. He lost earnings and was reprimanded at work. He said he was treated better in his host country than at the Nigerian High Commission and vowed to apply for German citizenship and give up his Nigerian one.
Another in Milan took a train for five hours to the embassy in Rome, only to be faced with a similar dilemma. The Nigerian embassies abroad treat Nigerians like nuisances; the process is just as opaque and lacks transparency; and the structures look dilapidated, a typical replica of the reality in Nigeria. When I heard that Tinubu had recalled all Nigerian ambassadors for failing to deliver adequate service, it was a relief for a starter. No matter how politically correct you want to play this, the Nigerian diplomatic mission abroad is utterly unfit for purpose.
A country that disrespects its citizens opens the door for others to push them aside; that is exactly what Nigerians go through.
From Canada to the US, Brazil to Mexico, the UK to Moscow, Tokyo to Jakarta, Bangkok to Riyadh, or New Delhi to Canberra, Nigerians go through hell to receive the simplest of services at the hands of their diplomatic mission. A country that disrespects its citizens opens the door for others to push them aside; that is exactly what Nigerians go through. As we speak, there is a Nigerian somewhere on the globe who has lost all hope because of the lack of attention by the Nigerian diplomatic service. This has got to stop. I am of the position that regardless of who you voted for, a bipartisan stance is beneficial for the greater good of the country, especially when something good is in the making.
…in line with the president’s renewed hope agenda, the President is determined to ensure that world-class efficiency and quality will henceforth characterise foreign and domestic service delivery to citizens, residents, and prospective visitors alike.”
Alkasim Abdulkadir, the foreign minister’s special adviser on media and communications strategy, said in a separate statement that “after careful study of the present state of affairs at Nigerian Consulate Offices and Embassies worldwide, in line with the president’s renewed hope agenda, the President is determined to ensure that world-class efficiency and quality will henceforth characterise foreign and domestic service delivery to citizens, residents, and prospective visitors alike.”
Any Nigerian who has lived abroad and sought consular advice will testify to the abysmal service the Nigerian Consular Service offers. Reform was long overdue, and no president has ever attempted to address the issue, so President Tinubu should be applauded for taking such a drastic move to address the sub-standard service these diplomats offer to Nigerians and the appalling representation they give Nigeria abroad.
President Tinubu is just shy of 100 days in office, but he has taken some tactical decision, albeit tough, these were nonetheless necessary to start turning Nigeria around. Love him or hate him, Tinubu has shown that he is far more effective than Buhari. Of course, the way in which one came into power always matters, and until the tribunal comes back with their decision on the pending challenge by PDP, LP, and others, Tinubu’s administration will still hang in the balance.
Should President Tinubu manage to effect the changes that will spearhead transparency in the Nigerian diplomatic mission worldwide, his name will forever enter the history books as the man who initiated the process.
One may argue that simply calling back career and non-career diplomats would not solve the problem. That is an argument to be had, but until we see the shakeup President Tinubu is looking to implement, we have to give him some credit for even attempting the bold move he has taken, as this will leave 97 vacant diplomatic positions without an embassy. Should President Tinubu manage to effect the changes that will spearhead transparency in the Nigerian diplomatic mission worldwide, his name will forever enter the history books as the man who initiated the process.
As a Nigerian who spent most of their life overseas, I bear witness to the awful encounters I had with several Nigerian oversea missions. These consular services are frightening, to say the least. It would seem that these diplomats received no training whatsoever. You cannot even call a Nigerian consular service and have someone at the other end of the telephone pick up; on the rare occasion that they do, they will sound so obtuse, lumpish, arrogant, and nonchalant towards your query; other times, they will just hang up.
Nigeria is an emigrant country; we are scattered all across the world, and we pay exorbitant amounts to receive services such as passports, marriage certificates, name changes, birth certificates, and many other consular-related requirements. The least Nigeria can offer is a service so smooth that it will guarantee that Nigerians don’t suffer at the hands of their host country and suffer again at the hands of their own country’s overseas representation.
The price of a Nigerian passport against the minimum wage or income is either the highest in the world or near it. Why would a passport cost more than the minimum wage?
The price of a Nigerian passport against the minimum wage or income is either the highest in the world or near it. Why would a passport cost more than the minimum wage? In the UK, for example, most consular services require a UK postal order. A postal order is basically money in a cheque-like format that can be cashed. In other words, the consular service charges extra for services that should not incur these charges. The postal order extra charge is not audited or accounted for on your payment receipt. Where these post-order payments go, no one can vouch for; this is either extortion or abuse of power done with impunity, this has gone on for years if not decades.
Nigerians overseas are giving up their Nigerian citizenship in droves to avoid the unnecessary bureaucracy and kickbacks attached to a Nigerian citizenship.
Nigerians overseas are giving up their Nigerian citizenship in droves to avoid the unnecessary bureaucracy and kickbacks attached to a Nigerian citizenship. Yes, the diplomatic structure needs to be fundamentally reformed, but this is not the only arm of government where fundamental reforms are required. The immigration service in Nigeria is some of the most unqualified anywhere; it is a place where people in power openly extort Nigerians with impunity. The malpractices going on within the various arms of the Nigerian system are not unbeknownst to the people in power; a deliberate blind eye is given to those orchestrating these corrupt practices because the rule of law is near nonexistent in Nigeria.
Will President Tinubu carry out the transformation that Nigerians both at home and abroad desire? That is the elephant in the room; for now, we can all hope that a revisit of the whole structure is sanctioned and the required changes are seen to be effected for the betterment of Nigerians. At least, for the first time, a Nigerian president has taken the initiative to confront an institution that is engulfed with malpractices so huge that other countries make derision out of Nigeria. Until Nigerians earn respect, Nigerians globally will continue to suffer derisive attitudes from other nationals.
By Ikechukwu ORJI