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EL-RUFAI’S BODY BAGS THREAT: APPRAISING THE ELECTORAL AND DIPLOMACY EFFECTS By Omoshola Deji

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Governorship Elections

Election in Nigeria is more of a war than a contest. The benefits of public office attract people to politics and make them desperate for power. Candidates employ devious tactics to win, as if losing is punishable by death. They dish out hate speeches and uncouth statements without considering the imminent doom such could drag Nigeria into. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State is in the eye of the storm. He stirred the hornet’s nest when he issued a death threat to foreigners who may want to question the conduct of the general elections starting February 16. This piece assesses the effect of El-Rufai’s statement on political behavior and Nigeria’s foreign relations.

The relationship between Nigeria’s executive arm of government and the global community has been uncordial lately. The United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) are casting doubt on the credibility of the forthcoming elections based on President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen. While commenting on the foreign stance during a live television program on 5 February, 2019, El-Rufai expressed that “those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in BODY BAGS (emphasis mine), because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country”. A ‘body bag’ is a carrier bag used for moving corpse from a battleground, or an accident or crime scene.

Many thought the outrage that greeted the threat would make El-Rufai eat his words, but that never happened. The threat was rather defined as patriotism. El-Rufai argued in a statement issued by his spokesman, Samuel Aruwan, that “affirming a country will defend itself against needless intervention is the kind of statement you expect to hear from a patriot. It is not a call to violence. Warning about the consequences of meddling in another country’s affairs is legitimate”.

The global community and Nigerians who were infuriated by El-Rufai’s idiocy were hoping the Federal Government would caution him, but that also never happened. The Presidency threw her weight behind El-Rufai, saying he “spoke strongly in defense of national interest”. This is unsurprising as El-Rufai is a chieftain of the ruling party and staunch supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari. But how can the government of a country rationalize a threat to foreigners as national interest? The Presidency should have stayed mute than commit such a pricey blunder. National interest is the interest of a country as a whole, not that of subordinate areas or groups. El-Rufai spoke in defense of the ruling cabal’s interest, not for the majority of Nigerians.

President Buhari’s consistent show of double standard makes him undeserving of integrity accolades. His government labels El-Rufai’s threat a display of patriotism while unarmed Biafra secession campaigners were declared terrorists. The President’s henchmen warning the international community not to interfere in Nigeria’s electoral process praised their interference when it favored Buhari in 2015. Former US President Barrack Obama influenced the last presidential election against ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. Obama released a video urging Nigerians to open the ‘next chapter’ with their votes when an incumbent President is participating in the election.

Buhari applauded the UK, US and EU when they condemned the postponement of the 2015 elections. Buhari, then a presidential candidate, hailed the foreign interventions, even as Jonathan and his supporters stayed calm and eventually lost the election. The same foreign authorities of 2015 recently condemned the alleged politically motivated suspension of the CJN and the Buhari government is warning them not to meddle in Nigeria’s politics. Such glaring display of double standard approach demeans Buhari’s acclaimed integrity. Buhari only cries foul when he is not profiting; any action or person that does not favor him is either wrong, corrupt, unpatriotic or unwelcome.

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The unintended grievous consequence of El-Rufai’s statement is the troubles Nigerians in the diaspora would face if any foreigner is injured or killed. The US, UK and Europe are Nigerians choice destinations. Those seeking greener pastures would be denied visas and those already in would be massively deported. We must not bite what we can’t chew! El-Rufai and the Nigerian government are threatening nations whose citizens visiting and living in Nigeria are law-abiding, while Nigerians are not the best-behaved persons overseas. Our nationals residing abroad illegally, disobeying laws and committing heinous crimes would suffer the foreign nation’s retaliatory measures the most. Nigeria cannot long-survive the sanctions that’ll be stamped on her if any harm befall the foreign observers. The nation imports almost everything and is heavily dependent on foreign aid and loans.

El-Rufai’s uncouth statement would affect the inflow of foreign direct investments. No sane stranger would invest huge in a country whose leaders are threatening foreigners, undermining the rule of law and interfering with the independence of the judiciary.

Many support El-Rufai’s notion that Nigeria should be left alone to run her affairs without any external interference. The degree and limitation of nations sovereignty is an age-long scholarly debate. Nigeria is a member of many foreign organizations and a signatory to many treaties. The membership of global and regional organizations such as the United Nations and African Union has limited the nation’s sovereignty. Identical to the social contract theory on state evolution, nations overtly or covertly submit part of their sovereignty when they join international organizations.

The signing of treaties and embracing the globally recommended mode of governance and development, such as upholding democracy and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, is a pointer that nations are expected to operate based on standards. Any nation that wants to be absolutely sovereign must not belong to any global body and such is virtually impossible. Nations are sovereign, but not absolutely sovereign. If nations are fully sovereign, why do international organizations set governing standards and principles and sanction erring nations? If nations are truly sovereign, why is the UN Security Council empowered to authorize military operations against nations?

Globalization has bond nations together in such a way that it is difficult for them not to meddle in each other’s affairs. Most nations have assets, investments and interests they care about in several other nations. For example, MTN is a South-African investment in Nigeria and any political-economic challenge that may affect MTN would naturally generate reactions from South Africa.

Foreign interventions are essential and commendable, but they are not always done out of good intents. The interventions are sometimes done to pave way for the exploitation of emerging nation’s resources. The unending war in Congo is a good example. The developed nations are renowned in providing dishonest economic interventions that entrench dependency. Foreign intervention has helped and harmed Nigeria’s economy. The nation lost interest in agriculture when oil multinational corporations (OMNCs) discovered and began oil exploration in the Niger-Delta.

The OMNC’s capital, skill and technology developed the oil sector, but that has largely been for their own benefit. Inhabitants of the region have lost their lands and marines to oil spills. The late Ken Saro-Wiwa’s assertion captures it rightly that they have no land to farm, no water to drink and no air to breathe. The OMNCs also refines oil abroad, instead of constructing refineries in Nigeria to create jobs and boost development. Foreign economic interventions often hinder emerging nation’s growth, but they are the lifesaving oxygen during the outbreak of epidemics such as Ebola, cholera and polio.

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The politicians bragging that Nigeria does not need foreign interventions are those hoping to profit from the imperfections of our electoral system. The nation has a lot to gain from foreign electoral interventions and should embrace it, so long as the interventions does not influence election results. External intervention – especially via observations and recommendations – is a means of bettering the quality of our elections. The ruling party has no reason to move against foreign observers if the elections are going to be free, fair and credible. Observing elections help prevent fraud or manipulations, or expose such anomalies if they happen. Foreign observers are a credible means of monitoring the extremes of incumbent seeking reelection, especially in our clime where election results can easily be manipulated.

Observing the electoral process enables nations with mature democracies to recommend ways through which the electioneering process can be strengthened. It can lead to the correction of errors or weak practices, even while the election is ongoing. An observation of the electoral process by foreign persons and groups often boost the public and oppositions confidence in the results. Once the transparency of an electoral process convinces observers to release positive commentaries, the opposition parties may consider throwing in the towel and such increase the legitimacy of the government the election produce.

The US, UK and Europe’s warning is the essential stitch in time that saves nine. Issuing warnings and sanctions is the western nation’s means of avoiding the huge expenses they bare when conflict occur in developing nations. The West is the leading provider of military and humanitarian aid to troubled nations. Cautioning political actors is not inappropriate, considering the wanton destruction of lives and properties war brings.

Anarchy will only worsen Nigeria’s underdevelopment as amenities destroyed won’t not be promptly fixed due to paucity of funds. Even if available, such fund is better spent on settling striking unions and providing amenities. War is not an option for any nation that value lives. Infrastructures can be fixed, the economy can be revived, but lives lost can never be regained. Moreover, Nigeria does not have the capacity to confront the global powers if such need arises; not with the demoralized army struggling to conquer Boko-Haram.

El-Rufai and his encouragers needs to act cautiously and be wary of the consequence of their actions on Nigeria. The countries of the foreigners being threatened do not joke with their citizens’ lives. They are not like the Nigerian government that tolerates Boko-Haram and herdsmen. Issues based campaigns must be revived and the purveyors of hate speech and fake news should be appropriately sanctioned or prosecuted. President Muhammadu Buhari owes Nigeria the gratitude of ensuring the elections are free, fair and credible. The elections would pass, Nigeria shall remain.

*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via moshdeji@yahoo.com

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Opinion

Teenage Crime Rising With Emergence Of ‘Awawa,’ ‘No Salary Boys’

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 Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

*Police Arrested 341 Suspected Teenage Cultists From Different Locations

* Over 64 Million Youths Unemployed, 1.6 Million Under-Employed – Researcher

*Crime Rate Has Reduced In Lagos State-PPRO

“They asked me why I wasn’t with my Automatic Teller Machine card (ATM), beat me and hit my chest hard. I had to do an X-ray to see if my chest bone was not broken because I was feeling pains there for days. I was only comforted when the X-ray result came out and it was nothing serious.”

This was part of the ordeal narrated by a female banker, who was victim of an attack orchestrated by some teenagers in Igando during the week.

Narrating her ordeal, Adesola told Saturday INDEPENDENT how she was attacked by boys who took her phone and the little cash she had on her after hitting her with an object on her chest.

If you think that Adesola’s case is pitiable, the case of a graphic artist attacked along Agidingbi road on his way home early this month would shock you.

“I had just finished from work on Friday night and was going home. I boarded a tricycle with two other passengers inside. On getting to Anchor Event Center, the rider turned to a secluded part of the road, and before I could say anything, two of the passengers started attacking me when I tried to resist, they brought out a dagger threatening to kill me. I had to think fast and let them have their way. On the night, they collected my phones and the cash I had just withdrawn from the ATM. It was a night I would want to forget in a haste,” he said.

There is no arguing the fact that the youths of any nation are its future. Given the opportunity to develop into bright prospects, they become the crop that makes the country a dreamland. If not, the disaster that awaits is better imagined.

Devoid of opportunities to make the best out of life and based on the above analogy, it won’t be far from the truth to say a disaster seems to await Nigeria.

In recent years, very few Nigerian youths can boast of an enviable or laudable achievement with some of those who have achieved subsequently finding themselves drowned by the worsening economic situation.

A cause of concern is the way Nigerian talents continue to leave the country in their droves and in their prime.

However, of more concern is the bulk of unemployed Nigerian youths turning into undesirable elements, as the average youth has been involved in almost every crime imaginable including kidnapping, armed robbery, murder to mention a few.

Nigerian Youths, A Disaster In Waiting?

There appears an increase in youth-related crimes in recent times, as criminalities such as ‘One Chance’ have been orchestrated mostly by young boys. There have also been cases of murders, armed robbery and other heinous crimes committed by young boys.

The Lagos Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Bala Elikana while speaking with Saturday INDEPENDENT revealed that undercover patrolmen and stop and search strategies are being used to battle ‘one chance’ via tricycle, adding that policemen are now strategically located at different points and 12 of the criminals had been arrested in the last two weeks.

Despite the intervention by the police, there are still, countless tales of teenage boys unceremoniously robbing victims in Lagos State.

The case of the notoriously famous ‘Awawa Boys’ who have ravaged the Agege part of Lagos with unpalatable exploits are legendary.

Described as marauders, they move in pretty large numbers of between 50 and 100 wielding small but deadly arms such as razor blades and stitching awl.

Small axes, handguns, and machete are used for settling scores with rival groups. They are also known for their abuse of drugs, as an average Awawa Boy takes a cocktail of drugs ranging from Skunk to Indian Hemp, Codeine, Rohypnol, and Tramadol. Tagged Awawa Boys, the group which many consider a male cult sect also have female members.

Their crimes range from rapping, forcefully obtaining personal belongings of unsuspecting road users, bugling of shops among others.

‘Awawa Boys’ are however not the only group in Lagos State known for this criminal act, as another sect known as the ‘No Salary Boys’ have also taken over the Ijegun and Aberonje axis of Lagos State.

Ajayi Moses (not real name) who once encountered the ‘No Salary Boys’ recounted the experience. Describing their modus operandi, he told Saturday INDEPENDENT that they often line up on the road accosting innocent passers-by. Numbering between 60 and 100, they rob passers-by of their valuables such as bags, purse, and phones.

Further, he said that the ‘No Salary Boys’ often operate in the morning and go to the extent of seriously injuring their victim who resists them, adding that their operations are usually on and off.

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According to him, they might operate for a while; disappear for months only to resurface again.

“The ‘No Salary Boys’ are mostly made up of young boys of between 15 and 25 years, and they commit serious havocs,” he said.

But how did we get here, when did the average Nigerian youth turn to a life of crime?

The Theory

A research paper written by Anthony Abayomi Adebayo and titled ‘Youths’ Unemployment And Crime In Nigeria: A Nexus And Implications For National Development’ blamed the swing of Nigerian youths from a positive path to negativity on unemployment.

According to Adebayo, “Unemployment has become a major problem tormenting the lives of Nigerian youths and this poses a serious risk to society. The phenomenon of youth unemployment is devastating to both the individual and the society as a whole both psychologically and economically.”

The interplay between unemployment, youth-related crimes and the magnitude of the danger which it poses to the society is indeed shocking.

According to available statistics, over 64 million youths were unemployed and over 1.6 million under-employed as of 2010, causing frustration, dejection, and desperation. Today, the statistics has definitely increased.

Nigerian Youths Are Lazy

This is typified in the words of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, when he was quoted as saying that Nigerian youths are lazy while delivering a keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London in 2018.

While the President’s position attracted a lot of criticisms from youths across the country who maintained that they were not lazy and that the government had created little or no opportunity for them, there were those who agree with the President’s position.

A former Minister of Information and chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh defended the president in the heat of the criticisms he suffered after making the comment.

Stating that the President was indeed right that some Nigerian youths are lazy, Momoh said a lot of them are sitting at home doing nothing.

While it is indeed difficult to hastily generalise that Nigerian youths are indeed lazy, there is a crop of them who are indeed not only lazy but have turned a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

Who Is To Blame?

Poor parenting has also been identified as a cause of the increase in youth-related crimes.

Ibilola Noibi, a resident of Ajah, Lagos State who described himself as a Life Coach told Saturday INDEPENDENT that since charity begins at home, parents should take responsibility for what their children become.

“Parents train their children personally before they are exposed to the world, so anything that they become is their handwork. Larry Winget’s book titled ‘Your Kids Are Your Own Fault’ tells it all.”

There are, however, those who believe that religious organisations such as mosques and churches should also share some blames in the high rate of crimes by young boys.

Their position is hinged on the fact that churches today are more concerned about preaching prosperity than preaching salvation, while mosques are more interested in preaching hate against other religions; hence youths are more concerned in living the life painted by their religious leaders.

However, Pastor Ruth Akinfiro, Resident Pastor of New Covenant Assembly Power Pentecostal Church, Egan in Alimosho local government area, Lagos State has a different opinion.

Asked if the church should be blamed for the crisis at hand, she said: “It is a yes and no answer. We cannot absolutely blame the church when youths derail but to a large extent a lot of things the church counts as irrelevant affects the decisions of the youths. For example, we allow the culture of indecent dressing, a lifestyle of drinking; we celebrate all types of dances. The youths troop into churches and they are never corrected for the additional lifestyles like smoking and immorality added to the permitted one like. All of those kinds of messages have left the church because the churches want to be populated so they encourage youths to come in raw.

“Godliness is no longer core, modesty has left, and strange cultures are imbibed. Internet fraudsters are celebrated in churches today. However we won’t rule out parental factor, charity, they say begins at home. Parents have become children to their children. Since the children take care of their welfare at a tender age, no one cares how they make money. Such children corrupt other children with their bad training. At 14 or 15 years, youngsters are carrying family responsibilities. No one cares how they go out of their way to achieve this. The church has a role, the home has a role. However, some religious institutions and some families have failed in their roles, hence the rise in derailing youths.”

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Nigerian Police Force

Elkana, who does not agree that there has been an increase in crime rates in Lagos State concurs that the state has witnessed some cases of youth-related crimes in recent times.

He explains the efforts of the force to curb crimes in Lagos State thus: “most of the crimes we are witnessing have a link to the youthful population when you talk of cultism, robbery, and kidnapping. Kidnapping has even gone down in Lagos State and those we had in the past had to do with the youths. The cases we now see every day that has to do with the youths is violence resulting from cultism and gangsterism.

“Cultists form themselves into gangs and you see them attacking each other, injuring each other and even killing each other. While attacking each other, innocent people become victims of their attack,” he said.

Explaining why youth-related crimes have been consistent, he explained that most of these gangs engage in drug abuse, and to sustain the drug lifestyle they go into robbery, and housebreaking to get things like money and phones that they can use to sustain their life. Elkana also revealed that they also make use of tricycles to rob people all in a bid to get money to sustain their drug life.

“We have launched quite a number of programmes and operations, one of such is ‘Operation Crush’ which the Commissioner of Police launched. ‘Operation Crush’ is about taking the battle to the doorstep of the cultists, identifying them using intelligence leg approach, apprehend, investigate them and charge them to the court,” Elkana stated while explaining the moves by the Police to curb the menace of youth crimes.

The Lagos PPRO further explained that ‘Operation Crush’ is aimed at uprooting cultists and gangster activities wherever they operate in Lagos State, adding that the operation has already succeeded in arresting massively those involved in cultism and gangsterism in Lagos.

“In the first operation, we got 202 suspects from an operation. They were all arrested in different locations. Another operation got 100 suspects and we got 39 in another operation, so the operation is constantly identifying them where they operate and their membership, targeting them. We don’t just operate until we have enough information about them, where they operate, how they meet and where they meet, and then we strike and get them with precision. That has set the tide down.”

Confirming that traffic light robbery is another concern, Elkana, said that “the force had launched an operation using mostly undercover operatives, they don’t wear uniforms, they go on surveillance in mufti because traffic light robbers take advantage of the traffic build-up. They go in as if they are selling and within seconds they are robbing people. The operation has also helped and we have gotten over 70 of those traffic light robbers, and we have recovered over 20 arms from them over a period of time.”

Asked the nature of arms recovered from the robbers, Elkana said they were mostly pistols some of which are locally made and others foreign, adding that the force had also traced the source and arrested some of the blacksmiths producing the local guns.

 

Probable Solution To Increase In Teenage Crime

The researcher, Adebayo however, proffers solutions to the problem of youth-related crimes. According to him, the youths are the foundation of any society and contribute immensely to its development. The expert was of the view that the government should embark on huge investment in agriculture as well as encouraging youths to take advantage of the investment. He also charged the government to make Agric-business to be exciting, creative and innovative enough to stir and spur youth interest. He advocated for farm settlements for youths so that they could contribute their quota to national development.

“Many of the youths who migrate to urban centers in search of the elusive greener pastures end up being jobless in the city. Many of them eventually become criminals in order to survive. Consequently, rural-urban migration should be checked through the provision of essential social amenities that make life in the rural area attractive to the youths.”

Other strategic solutions for curbing this excess as proffered by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crimes includes the use of sport to keep youths busy, while the creation of youth employment programs have also been encouraged. In the cities of New York, Boston and Chicago, the summer employment did help reduce the rate of crime arrangement among youths.

However, with Nigeria being a peculiar country, the possibility of the effectiveness of these solutions will have to be measured after they have been implemented.

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Opinion

An Account of the Corruption and Anomalies in the Nigerian Immigration Service

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One of the primary responsibilities of government is to provide – or regulate the provision of – efficient service to the populace. Successive Nigerian government has failed in this regard. It has become a convention to get inefficient service, despite paying high. Both private and public institutions are culpable, but the latter errs more. Public officials are more of exploiters than service providers. The uniformed ones are worse. You are bound to pay extra before being attended to. Such is the case of the Nigerian Immigration Service. This piece brings you a firsthand account of the anomalies and corruption going on at the passport offices.

I flew into Nigeria for some engagements and noticed my passport would expire in six months. This qualifies it for renewal. I had two options: renew it in Nigeria or abroad. I opt for the former to avoid the stress I faced to procure the expiring passport. Besides, it is more expensive to renew the passport abroad and I stay far from the embassy. Renewing a Nigerian passport abroad is an uphill task many try to avoid. The unethical conducts of the embassy officials would make you want to renounce Nigeria. But patronizing the embassy is better. You won’t realize this till you visit the passport offices in Nigeria.

“You can’t just walk in and get a passport”, my friends warned. They vowed I won’t get it quickly unless an immigration officer ‘assist’ me. ‘Assist’ means paying an officer to monitor and hasten the passport application process. Rejecting the suggestion made them recount the tales of people who failed to subscribe for assistance. They narrated how such person’s application hit the rocks with “no record found”. How their image gets captured wrongly – rendering the passport unusable – was also recounted.

Other persons I chatted also stressed the importance of ‘assistance’. They disclosed that applying without being ‘assisted’ can take you up to 5 months, while you’d get your passport between 1-14 days when assisted. I remained adamant, but succumbed when a contact said “I know someone (an immigration officer) who’ll do it fast for 30k. Pay the standard 18, I’ll add the remaining 12”. That silenced me. I couldn’t dissent. To overegg the pudding was unnecessary. I agreed, on a condition that I would pay all.

We were welcomed by touts advertising ‘assistance’ when we visited the passport office. Most of them are agents of the immigration officers. Some officers were at the gate that day, and every other day. They were positioned as security, but seen scouting for new applicants; identifying them by their demeanor. The ideal thing is to direct applicants to a guideline or office, but they never did. They were asking them “do you know your way?” Answering “no” or making inquiries makes you prey. You would be connected to their partnering tout or officer to ‘assist’ you. Answering “yes” means you’ve already established contact with an officer inside.

We met an officer who charged me N35,000 for the 32 page passport, but we slashed the price to N30,000. The officer reluctantly agreed; persuading us to pay more. I paid N30,000. The original cost of the 32 page passport I applied for – lately before the issuance of the enhanced e-passport commenced – is about 18,000. Paying N30,000 made me unhappy till I eavesdropped that some people paid N45,000 for the same 32 page passport. That made me feel N30,000 was a good deal. I was somewhat glad. You would too.

My money did some work. The officer ‘assisting’ me fast-tracked the application. I did the face and fingerprint capturing within three hours. Don’t say I waited long! Capturing within such a timeframe isn’t possible without ‘assistance’; the applicants were over hundred. Nonetheless, the assistance wouldn’t have been necessary if the system is efficient, but those profiting from the inefficiency would not let it be.

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The officer ‘assisting’ me collected my file after capturing. Like every other colleague, the officer has a client’s record book. My data was added to several others contained therein. I was told to come for the passport in two weeks. Efforts to secure a faster date failed. I left and couldn’t return till after a month due to an interstate engagement.

I got back and need to return abroad. Having performed the bribe ritual, I wasn’t worried about the passport, but the cost of flight ticket. I searched for ticket and was lucky to get a good offer from a reputable airline. This got me excited. My eyes stared at the ticket as I reminisced my last experience with the airline, hoping to have a good time again. I was tempted to book the flight, but held back. Being confident the passport is ready isn’t enough, lay your hands on it, I counseled myself. That turned out to be my best decision in the year.

“Your passport is not ready, we don’t have booklet”. The immigration officer ‘assisting’ me uttered the next morning. I smiled thinking it was a joke, only to discover it isn’t. I became worried about my scheduled activities abroad. How do I explain to a foreign organization that I won’t return at the agreed time due to passport renewal delay, when such doesn’t happen in their country? Efforts to get the passport quickly exposed me to several other wrongs in the passport office.

There’s no orderliness and feedback mechanism. You must always be present, even for minor things. The officers are used to earning extra from ‘assistance’ daily. This affects their commitment to you. They no longer give you much attention after the first day, their attention is always on the new clients. They have so many clients that they struggle to remember their name and situation when they dial. This made me resolve to always visit the passport office to monitor progress.

My regular visits made me a familiar face to some of the officers. A narration of my engagements abroad and the implication of not travelling immediately only earned me pity, not solution. I discovered the officers have factions and an unofficial policy. The officer you pay is responsible for you; no officer will assist you even if they can, no matter how terrible your situation is. This immensely affected me.

The officer ‘assisting’ me, a senior one at that, no longer have strong links in the production room due to recent reordering of duties. Clients of those who have strong networks in the room were collecting passports. Then, I discovered my officer was greedy. Officers in the production room charge colleagues for speedy processing because they know they’ve been paid too. The officer just submitted my file without tipping. As the days passed, I got more disturbed as I receive emails to explain my absence abroad.

An officer advised I should explain my situation to the head of Service Compact (SERVICOM) – the complaint and efficient service delivery section. I met the head of SERVICOM after a long wait. “Who is assisting you?” he asked. My eyes popped. The SERVICOM head knows about ‘assistance’. Great! I answered and was told to summon the officer over immediately. I felt uncomfortable, thinking the officer may be reprimanded, but nothing happened. They both checked my application status and detected no problem.

The SERVICOM head therefore instructed the officer to regenerate my file. He promised to indorse and send it to the production room, but I must do something before that happens. I must have a flight ticket and get a letter from the organization am with abroad, stating why I have to return urgently. That got me infuriated. Booking has not helped most of the applicants I’ve seen around. Moreover, I can only show proof that I’m affiliated with a foreign organization and why my trip is urgent, but can’t get a letter from abroad.

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I contend that it is unreasonable for Nigerian immigration to be directing Nigerians to get a letter from foreign institutions before they can be issued a passport. The noisy room suddenly went silent. Unbothered, I stated that the passport is my inalienable right and no foreign institution would persuade Nigeria before I get it. The room was still silent, an indication that I’ve either misfired or scored a hat-trick. It was the latter. I was told to only explain my situation in writing and provide evidence that I must travel soon. No foreign letter needed.

I returned the next day with my letter and supporting evidence. To my utter dismay, the passport office had no network to check my status. I was amazed, but the officers weren’t. They experience such regularly. No one could do a thing that day. The entire office was practically shut down.

We were all waiting for network when I overheard the officers discussing about a just released promotion list. They’re annoyed that many of the officers who participated in the promotion exercise and passed, without any query, were not promoted, because they’re Southerners. The Northerners, particularly the Hausa-Fulani were massively promoted and posted to promising places. They also complained about the lack of proper documentation in the Nigerian Immigration Service. Many retired and deceased officers name came out as promoted. The officers lastly discussed the new enhanced e-passport and how much they should be charging for ‘assistance’. No amount was agreed. I went home happy. The revelations made my coming worthwhile.

The next day, my officer advised I shouldn’t regenerate my file for one reason: the officers assigned to search files often declare them unfound without conducting any search. The officer collected extra N3,000 from me to tip a new contact in the production room. I was glad I didn’t ask the foreign body for letter and my predicament was earning me uncommon findings.

I later visited the passport office with Dr Akin, an erudite scholar and researcher who just landed in Nigeria. I briefed him of my past findings and tasked him for more. Dr Akin gathered facts from the applicants through informal discussions. His respondents revealed they’re being ‘assisted’ by different officers who charged them between N30,000 to N45,000, instead of N18,000. He briefed me of a septuagenarian who vowed it’s impossible for anyone to procure a passport at the official fee. The old woman shared her desire to see a working Nigeria, but regrets that can’t happen during her lifetime. I got my passport that day, about three months after applying.

The Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede have to step up his game. He needs to inject more transparency, efficiency, accountability and discipline into the service. More passport offices need to be established and the existing ones should be provided with enough amenities. More seats are needed. Many applicants stood under the sun to collect their passport and the public address system was inaudible. Those in front have to repeat the names being called before others could hear. People were charged N50 for using the lavatory, why?

This piece is an advocacy for efficiency, not vilification. The passport office and persons were deliberately not mentioned. An encounter with me shouldn’t make them the fall guy. What is needed is a holistic reform, not punishing few persons for the wrongs being committed by virtually everyone in the service.

By Omoshola Deji

 

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Opinion

Big Brother Is All About Connection, Says Gifty Power As she Questions Show’s Credibility

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Big Brother Naija

The credibility of reality show Big Brother Naija has once again being brought to question.

This time, the person questioning the credibility of the show is former housemate Gifty Powers.

According to her, separate rules appear to apply for different people in the show.

In a post she put up, Gifty questioned why some people were purnished for breaking the rules of Big Brother, while others were left off the hook despite committing an equally purnishable offence.

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She wondered why Ike was issued his second strike in the reality show for intent to attack his fellow housemate Seyi, and the duo of Tatcha and Joe were also issued strikes after the pair were involved in a clash. While Mercy on her part received a final warning for damaging Biggie’s property when she broke the Oppo Mobile phone at a Saturday Night Party, but Seyi never got a strike or a warning for cursing Thelma and Ike on live TV, an offence which saw two housemates being disqualified in the last edition of the show.

Heritage Bank Plc

R-L: Fela Ibidapo, Group Head, Corporate Communications, Heritage Bank Plc; Omobolaji Mogaji, Media Sales Executives at Multichoice and Gifty Powers, Big Brother Naija’s housemate, during her visit to the bank’s head office in Victoria Island Lagos, weekend.

Recall that KBrule and Khloe were disqualified from last year’s show for breaking one of Biggie’s rules, which is ‘No Cursing’.

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Meanwhile, Seyi’s full name is Seyi Awolowo. He is from the popular Awolowo dynasty.

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