Diplomacy/InternationalGeneral News

EXCLUSIVE: Nigerians in US accuse Embassy officials of fraudulent practices, passport racketeering, extortion

Access Bank

Nigerians living in parts of the United States, particularly those in the South West Coast, have accused the nation’s embassy officials in Washington DC of fraudulent dealings, passport racketeering and extortion.

They allege that the Nigerian Embassy officials deliberately stir up a situation to defraud them of their hard earned money by creating bottlenecks and unnecessary obstacles in renewing their international passports and also contracting parts of their services to their cronies, all geared towards extorting those in need of their services.

Unfortunately, although many of the Nigerians feel deeply pained by the activities of the country’s embassy officials, they said they were too miffed and distraught to talk to the press about their deep-hearted grievances.

However, speaking on behalf of his other aggrieved compatriots, a Nigerian resident in one of the South West Coast states who would rather remain anonymous, accused the embassy officials of creating unnecessary inconveniences at the expense of flying to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, which is 2,800 miles, just to get new passport or for renewal. He accused the embassy officials of extortion and demanding fraudulent fees for renewal or obtaining a new passport.

He also accused the officials of “contracting the service to friends/cronies who do not have any business in the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC” and introducing “hidden and unaccountable” fees charged by these cronies.

“Even after making all these inflated and fraudulent fees, no one is guaranteed of getting the passport or the services.

“They make the process of online registration and access very frustrating, and then ask one fees in order to assist him or her.”

According to him, “these have been ongoing issues, but nobody in the Nigerian embassy cares to look into them.”

He noted that there are roughly 80,000 Nigerian residents, living in that region of the United States, “but, unfortunately, the Nigerian government has never thought it necessary to open a consulate in this part of the United States that can cater for the needs (especially passport renewal and replacement) for Nigerians.”

He said that the embassy in Washington sent him a message of their intention to come over to Los Angeles to process passports this December, which he said has become a biannual event.

The message from the embassy read in part: “Nigeria Embassy Washington DC Consular Services is coming to Los Angeles to Process 32-page – 5year EPassports. Dates: December 4, 5, & 6, 2020. Venue: To Be Given Only to Applicants with Appointment.

“We will close appointments once we have gotten the required number of completed applications. The CDC and State Health Department’s COVID-19 Protocol will be fully implemented. If you have any flu-like symptoms, please do not show up at the E-passport venue.

“Hurry, and start your application process NOW!

“Complete, and submit your completed applications with proof of online payment to Dr. Reginald Obiamalu, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Time is of the essence.

“If you need assistance with completing the application process, help will be rendered with a nominal fee, just call 310-702-4566, anytime before 7:00 a.m. and after 4:00p.m. Monday to Friday, and anytime on weekends.”

He alleged that this is a process designed to take advantage of Nigerians in need of their services and defraud them of their hard earned money.

All efforts to get the official reaction of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs proved fruitless. An email to the Ministry on the issues raised by the Diaspora Nigerians not replied.

Similarly, another email to the Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) on the same issue was merely acknowledged with a promise to respond to the enquiry of Century Post regarding the complaints by Nigerians in the US.

However, a week after, specifically on November 30, NIDCOM wrote again stating: “Your complaint has been forwarded to the Comptroller General of Immigration for his necessary action.” We found ourselves in a state of quandary as to the relationship between Diaspora Nigerians in the US and the Nigeria Immigration Service.

Recall that the Nigerian Embassy in Germany recently suspended one of its staff accused of demanding sex-for-passport and began an investigation into the claims.

The embassy on its Twitter handle said in a statement that: “The Embassy of Nigeria in Germany announced today that it has suspended with immediate effect a local staff (security unit) in connection with allegations of sexual abuse and other serious criminal activity.

“The staff, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was suspended following the circulation of material on social media that suggested the official was demanding sexual favours in return for official services.” 

It quoted the Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Mr. Yusuf Tuggar, as saying that the embassy has “zero-tolerance policy towards abuse of office and especially of sexual misconduct. Our full resources are being deployed to investigate a very serious incident and any other abuses that this inquiry may reveal.”

Ambassador Tuggar explained that investigation into the matter would be done with urgency and due diligence, “that this very serious situation demands. When due process is complete, any guilty party can expect to face the full weight of the law. Our heartfelt sympathies are with any innocent victims of abuse.”

In a viral video, the unnamed staff of the Nigerian embassy was seen in a hotel where he had allegedly planned to meet a woman for sex in order to aid the issuance of her Nigerian passport.

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