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Passport Palaver! BellaNaijarian Hauwa Recounts Her Sister’s Unpleasant Experience with the Nigerian Consulate in the US

BellaNaija.com

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My sister’s Nigerian passport was due to expire in September 2017, so all summer we’ve been trying to see the most inexpensive way to get the passport renewed. For those who do not know, there are three Nigerian embassies (that I know of) in the U.S: Atlanta, D.C and New York. We were trying to see which office we could go to get it done the same day and head back to Houston to avoid paying expensive hotel costs.
My sister lives in Houston, so naturally Atlanta was the cheapest and easiest option. The flight to Atlanta is between 1 hour 55 minutes and 2 hours 15 minutes – depending on the airline you go with.

Our plan was thus: fly into Atlanta early on a weekday and get there at 8 am, head to the embassy at 9 am, get the process all done and be on a flight back to Houston by 7 pm. Sounds solid, right? Well, no. Turns out the Nigerian Consulate at Atlanta is “temporarily” closed; and on the website, it directed visitors to seek help from either D.C or New York. I read this and thought, “hmm, well I understand… since Nigeria is going through an economic turmoil right now; perhaps funds were not enough to keep all three embassies afloat”. So, I moved on.

Upon further perusing of the Atlanta Consulate website, there was a poster advertising a passport intervention in Dallas from July 28th to July 30th for Nigerians seeking a new passport, renewing a passport or for other passport related services. A passport intervention means that some officials from an embassy will come to a city with a high population of Nigerians (Dallas in this case) to help process passport applications – for Nigerians who are unable to travel to the embassies due to lack of funds, or maybe just time.

Naturally, I saw this and was happy because Dallas is just 4 hours away by road. I forwarded the link to my sister and started calling the contacts listed to make sure it wasn’t too late to start the process. There was no answer from either of the numbers; but shortly afterwards, I got a text message from one of the contacts with some details and a direct website for more information.

My sister and I proceeded to fill out a passport renewal application on the Atlanta Embassy’s website which requires a debit card payment of $106. The requirement also stated that we would need to buy two (2) separate money orders: $70 (money order for consulate administrative fee) and another money order of $50 (for the third party organization in Dallas organizing the event). She printed out all the necessary documents, bought a Greyhound ticket to arrive Dallas on Friday night (July 28th) and leave Saturday (July 29th) at 2pm, she booked a hotel for Friday night that was a 7-minute walk to the venue for the passport intervention.

Please stay with me, because this is where things get interesting. It never occurred to us that our plan sounded foolish and too optimistic for any Nigerian process.

My sister arrived Dallas Friday night, checked into her hotel room with no issues, had a good night’s sleep, and then in the morning headed out to the venue as early as 9 am (start time on flyer). She got there and met a sea of people standing outside a hotel (venue), very disoriented and then things started to sink in.

After a while, she started to hear people who were at the event the day before (Friday) lament that some lady had collected the $50 third party money order from them on Friday, they had yet to get attended to, and they could not find her!
Remember the intervention was scheduled for Friday to Sunday. Let me state that I did not accompany my sister to this passport intervention, but she was constantly updating me via Snapchat, FaceTime, text message and via phone call.
The hours went by very fast as they tend to do when there is chaos and confusion, the Consulate officials from Atlanta arrived at 10 pm! There were only three people (That one sef dey).

There were no lines for anything no organization, no address to the crowd on the procedure for anything! When it was 11:30 am, we realized that this was not going to be a seamless process and we remembered that check out at the hotel was at noon. We decided to extend the hotel for one more day, thinking last-last by 6 pm Saturday, end time on flyer, we will be done and she’d get a good night’s sleep before heading back to Houston on Sunday morning… it did not happen.

My sister was there from 9 am to 9 pm that Saturday and did not smell the insides of the conference room they had booked to conduct this passport process.

These organisers did not have the courtesy to book a proper venue. They booked 3 hotel rooms to conduct this process and had informed the hotel management that they were only expecting about 40 -50 people. The people who showed up stayed outside the hotel for the majority, if not all of the time they were there.

At some point, the hotel called the police on them, as the capacity for the room was already exceeded. Nigerians, out of anger and frustration verbally and physically assaulted each other. I don’t condone such behaviour, but I understand the frustration. To top it all off, the officials went for lunch – for two hours – after only attending to a few people.

Did I mention that there was a lot of politics involved? Some people would arrive and on being recognised by the officials or the so-called organisers, they would by-pass everyone, head upstairs and get the process going. At some point, the officials said these were people who had “pre-registered” with the organisation beforehand. Mind you, to pre-register you’d need to have been in Dallas prior to when the event started, and also have paid a separate $25 fee.

Long story short: my sister went back to the hotel at 9 PM on Saturday night with nothing accomplished. Oh, and one lady also collected everyone’s $50 money order including hers. On Sunday, she got there again at 8 am sharp, met the same number of people and watched the same Taekwondo and Gidigbo. Although, they changed the venue, due to the previous day’s problems, they still had the same issues with the venue’s management – because of the discrepancy in the number reported and the number of people that showed up.

My sister, as a hustler, was finally able to get a “call number”, squeeze herself into an elevator that was over capacity and get into the conference room. All in all, she got through the process at 6 PM on Sunday July 30th. There were still people that had been waiting since Friday by the time she left there that Sunday.

Up until this weekend, I still had some pride left in being Nigerian, but after what she witnessed, I am thoroughly ashamed of being Nigerian.

This passport renewal process could have been seamless; they could have used a document to take a head count of people on each day. For example, if the maximum they could have processed in one day was between 80 to 100, they could have used this to estimate the space needed, avoided embarrassment and all the fights they caused. They could also have had more officials come in from the embassy, created some form of fair process, and been respectful of people’s time.

Can Nigerians do better? How can we leave home physically but still be mentally conditioned and prone to the same issues?
Why must we make easy things so complicated that they become nerve-racking?

Here is the kicker…. When my sister asked one official when to expect the new passport in the mail, they told her 1 to 3 months. HA! This Nigerian life!

My passport expires in April next year, I cannot say I look forward to renewing it.

Photo Credit: Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime

27 Comments

  1. Mo

    August 3, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    We applied for Naija visa in my family. We paid close to 900 dols and mailed it to them. 4 days later, we got a list, typed with 1940s typewriter. Not formal no nothing, just list of things to submit. They marked they ones missing and mailed it to us. When I opened the envelope, I was so ashamed to be a Nigerian. How can you be collecting over 200dol/ person and you can buy a computer, printer and hire a professional to write a formal letter to your customer? May God help us!

    1
  2. critique

    August 3, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    quick correction: there is only one nigerian embassy (DC). there are two consulates: Atlanta and NYC.

    it is unfortunate that Nigerians are so disorganized. we have ridiculous policies and procedures. i think back to last year (was it?) when they ran out of passport booklets. Do you know that some of these embassy officials you see in the states haven’t been paid in months? it’s just a shame!

    • Wale Vintage

      August 3, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      When you want to do anything with the Nigerian government at home or abroad you have to be prepared to put aside your American way of thinking and expectations. So you think ahead and plan like a Nigerian. I know that shouldn’t be the case-but it is our reality. The few times I had to have things done at the consulate, I flew into Atl since that was the closest consulate for those of us in Miami. I always made sure I arrived at their gate before they opened, meaning I took the earliest flight into Atl. I got my stuff done same day head back to Miami. I always made sure I collected my new passport or stamps the same day. It is a shame they have decided to close the Atl consulate, even though they weren’t the most professional, by our standards, they attended to us quickly with a little of the side gist civil servants do in their office and a few connected people jumping queue-to be expected. I think your experience should be forwarded to abike dabiri and the min of external affairs. I am not even sure there is an ambassador in place for the usa since the last one died. I would never think of going to meet Nigerian embassy officials on a road trip kind of setting to process visas or have my passport renewed oh! There is a high probability they will lose it . The $50 fee they collect was explicitly told to me by one of the officials at atl that is their own money to share because the last time I was there they had not been been paid salary.

  3. Ileola

    August 3, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    It’s a terrible experience with all NHC and embassies worldwide. But we need to move on from talking to doing. A young lady in the UK ranted but went ahead and did something. Raised petitions, organised protest marches outside the NHC in London. Things have got a lot better now (look up Joy Jobi on FB)

  4. Olori

    August 3, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    So sad to hear all this is happening unfortunately we don’t have competent people working at those embassie,in most cases its a story of a one eyed man leading a pack of blind people.Our thoughts on Justice and Fairness are flawed its a man know man System.Nigeria my heart bleeds we should be better we should do better

  5. teeA

    August 3, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Naija! Na our way! This happened to me in Detroit in 2014. Was trying to get a new passport for my newborn (1 week old) . Traveled about an hour from Ypsilanti, only to get there and it was 100% chaos. My only saving grace was the baby who they gave some consideration to and allowed him to do the photo capture after a 4.5 hour wait.
    The entire time, I had him all wrapped with blankets and kept praying he would not catch any bugs from being exposed to such a throng at close quarters at such a young age.

    Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the embassy officials didn’t have a regular printer so we had to borrow them our small portable one which we happened to have in the car. They sha begged to use it for the period they were around and hubby had to drive back 2 days later to pick it up. Passport came like a month later after repeated calls +sending a money order for expedited processing.
    Hot mess.com

  6. slice

    August 3, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    The consulate general Atlanta should be recalled. Put someone else in the job because clearly he doesn’t know how to manage a consulate. Fire the tall guy that insults everyone old and young. And finally give the Filipino lady a national award cause every single person knows she’s the best thing about that office

  7. slice

    August 3, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Fire consulate general Atlanta. He’s doing a horrible job. Give Filipino lady a national award. Tall dude who insults everyone needs to go. And what’s with the making women wear scarves in picutres. Or wraps if you will. They say it’s order from above

    • Ajala & Foodie

      August 3, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      @ slice, are you referring to the tall guy that starts every comment with I have been here for…..years???? I don’t know about scarves though has I did not have one and one was not required when I was there.

  8. AnonymousT

    August 3, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I actually had a very good experience
    Went to DC to renew my passport . I had gone online and found out all I had needed . My sister had also previously done hers . I got there at about 10am and was out before noon. I was shocked it was that fast. I had flown in from houston and had picked he latest flight thinking it was gonna be forever but I was pleasantly surprised .
    It wasn’t perfect by any means . But it was a bit organized .

  9. Bukie

    August 3, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Firstly, i will like to commend the consulate for scheduling a passport intervention in Dallas, that truly is a thumbs up considering where we are coming from, i really hope they read this article and make necessary changes. God Bless NIGERIA

  10. Tamales

    August 3, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Went through this last year when the embassy came to Houston. It was so disorganized and the annoying thing was some people bypassed the line by paying extra money to the officials . We pre registered and got all our documents to the Houston organizer. Can you believe this man lost my daughter’s file and was so non-chalant about it. Thank God for my husband…he had to forget about being a gentleman and went rogue on him. They actually processed her file without finding our documents. Those people are corrupt and useless.

  11. Amaa

    August 3, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    My dear just save your money fly to Ottawa by road or amtrack trains you get your passport the same day in Canada . A friend went with a baby and in less than hour the passport was ready . They were courteous polite and the consulate rep spoke to them about the changes they are making and asked them there opinions

    • Ottawa Queen

      August 4, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      You’re right, passport renewals are gotten the same day in an orderly process. No crowd too. However the Ottawa High Commission also has similar Naija issues in dealing with other passport related cases. I know a friend who has been waiting for 4months now to get a new passport, which apparently they said has to come from Abuja. Since it’s a change of name application. Seriously? ? Why that long? And with the look of things she may just have to wait longer. Smh!!!

  12. Ajala & Foodie

    August 3, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Atlanta Consulate closed???? My hubby and I were at said Consulate on the 10th of July. I had already prepared to spend the entire day there. So I was prepared… but their system kept going down… it made no sense, why can’t the Consulate get a reliable internet source? There were people that did the flying in and out the same day deal (bad bad idea!!!).

    What my experience however made me realize was that like in business when motive is on $$$ failure and frustration will most likely set in. Our system is broken because I.e people making the decisions are motivated by ? unlike our western counterparts who are about meeting the needs of their citizens. You can see it in the decisions that are being made, e.g the national ID requirement that was just announced, (you can stream line passports with the ID deal without making it another hardship on us.Just give immigration the capability to issue ID #s), it is also why the Nigerian passport is only valid for 5 years, why you need a reissue to add pages to your still valid passport, it is why people are unable to just mail in the necessary paper work to have their passport issued and/or renewed. Our consulate services/ immigration system will remain broken until we check our motives.

    As for the “9ja gra gra” and down right misbehavior, I will just say we are a reflection of our system, I saw a couple with their kids constantly try to jump ahead at the ATL Consulate, they knew someone that worked there but I have to applaud the other employees that were having none of it. Yet, we blame the government? Pause for a moment and think about the lessons being passed on to these kids. The ones mouthing off and given to drama but put them at their local DMVs long line or not them go sempe but when working with fellow Nigerians it is time to begin acting out. I have always renewed my passport in 9ja, this was my first time doing it outside and it definitely was an experience including the heavily pregnant woman that used her real false contractions to get ahead (I can’t blame her sha, me sef I would have done the same).

  13. Ajala & Foodie

    August 3, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    @ slice, are you referring to the tall guy that starts every comment with I have been here for…..years???? I don’t know about scarves though has I did not have one and one was not required when I was there.

  14. Tosin

    August 3, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    it is the most disorienting thing
    when a person with a European concept of time
    has the misfortune of dealing with a Nigerian.
    the INDISCIPLINE. oh. oh. oh.

    i don’t know how Nigeria still even exists. How we have companies/institutions/events/anything.

  15. slice

    August 3, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Yes that one. So rude!!!!!

  16. Tolu

    August 3, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Should we start talking about the DISGRACEFUL one in London????????????? O di gwa shameful!
    I always tell people, humble yourself before you go there and just hold your tongue, it is the only way you will get something accomplished….. Plan to spend your entire day there and you’ll receive your passport in the post shortly after.

    Take spare passport photographs cause they’ll start bring all sorts of new forms that weren’t on the website.

    From the security guard to the office staff, they are rude, disorganised and just a shame to the country. Worst of all, the office is in an upmarket part of London but once you cross the threshold ehn, you’re back in oke aarin market/balogun market

  17. Adamazi

    August 3, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    I have stepped up to help the New York Consulate streamline and improve services with their Passport Exercises in Chicago, IL. I am NOT affiliated or an employee of the Consulate just an Independent Business Owner who is an expert in document processing. Visit my website adamazievents.com and check us out on Facebook.

  18. GANNY OGUNSHAKIN

    August 3, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    You and your sister need to follow instructions very carefully. Renewing Nigeria passport is very easy nowadays if you follow the laid down instructions period. First and foremost buy the two separate money orders as requested. Secondly go to a third party website. Fill out the online forms including the two money order numbers. After completing the online process you will be issued a number and a date for you to appear in person at the Nigeria Consulate. Do not forget to print out all the copies and bring them along with you for your appointment, because you are going to need them at the Nigeria consulate to process your passport. Thirdly, To begin the passport issuing process When you arrive at the Consulate office, you will be asked about the number and the print out when it get to your turn. to have your pictures taken and to be finger printed by the officials . After completing this process
    Fourthly, you will be given a date for you to return back to the Consulate office to collect your Nigerian passport. My wife and I went through this process without any of those wahala at the District of Columbia Consulate office.

    • SMH

      August 3, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      She followed instructions. It seems the DC embassy is more straightforward. I haven’t experienced these travelling consulate processes but the reports of them have been varied. The last time I went to the Atlanta one, the Filipino lady held it down and things went well enough. Looks like DC is my next hope because when I was in Nigeria and went to renew in Ikoyi, they were out of booklets.

    • Mimi

      August 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm

      Sorry, but the Nigerian embassy in DC is still trash in my opinion. While I have never experienced any of the above stories, I just feel like the work done there is so inefficient. Instructions on the website not clear. I don’t understand why the process isn’t more simple. The communication from the embassy is nonexistent. I remember helping a friend trying to get her visa, being a Rwandan. She got the different money orders, mailed her stuff overnight from across country and got it mailed back with no clear instructions on what she was to do, no visa in hand. Me ligvin DC, she called to help get check they had received her return application, because she wasn’t getting any information back!
      All in all, it’s not difficult to state clearly the instructions for people needing services by the embassy. I just don’t understand why it can’t be done. I only wonder how better/worse it may be with other nations . If it’s not having enough staff, it to be rectified. Whatever it is, the country is doing a disservice to its people treating us in such ways.

  19. lucky me

    August 4, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Never had issues at the Atl consulates got both of my kids passport in 5working days with very minimal queue.

  20. Ada

    August 4, 2017 at 1:32 am

    For those who have options, just get visa on your foreign passport and get it done in naija.
    My sibs did that passport intervention in Detroit last year and because we knew one of the Aunties organizing it, she put theirs with her family’s own and they got theirs done sharp sharp. It’s sad don’t but even here too it’s man know man.

  21. missnk

    August 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

    lmaooo! Please don’t remind me of the madness I had to go through 2 years ago. I travelled from Liverpool to London and I had to wait hours and was calm and quiet. Then they announced that they were only attending to a few more people and I started vexing and shouting at one of the supposed Ogas. I think he was in shock cos they attended to me shortly after.

  22. I get agent

    August 4, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Me i cannot shout oooo i get agent who i happily pay to do all. I just turn up at the embassy and join que and leave a few hrs later and my passport meets me at home i 1/2 days max. I no get power o na uk i dey. The guy is reasonably priced too.

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