It was like a huge joke when a friend of mine told me that there are nationals of neighboring African countries faking to be Nigerians and then procuring Nigerian passports in order to travel to Nigeria. It did not make sense to me until a few days ago when I actually see with my own eyes that it is true! I could not believe it.
I met a Cameroonian lady on thursday 4th September, 2008. She informed me she just came back from Nigeria and she loved every bit of her stay. Thinking that obviously, she is married to a Nigerian and that might have been the reason why she went to Nigeria on a visit instead of her native Cameroon. Yes, she is married, but not to a Nigerian. She is not even from the English speaking part of Cameroon. She speaks French and one can hardly understand her cut-and-join English.
She went on to tell me how she came to the United States through the Asylum Visa about six years ago. Having got the visa and having spent more that six years in America, she started missing home badly. But since her asylum status would not allow her visit her country directly, where she was supposedly persecuted, she decided to travel to a neighboring country and then go to Cameroon by bus. She said that she chose Nigeria because our country is too big, nearer to her hometown, our border is porous and that our officials are more likely to take bribe. “So how did you do it”? I asked. She went on to reveal to me that it is impossible for her to fly direct to Cameroon. So she decided to do what some people in her shoes do, which is to go to the Nigerian Embassy and claim to be Nigerians in order to acquire Nigerian passports.
She revealed to me that it was not difficult at all for her to do it since she was not required to prove her citizenship of Nigeria before the passport was issued to her. Why not get a Nigerian Visa to travel? She stated that with a visa every time she wants to travel, she would have to get a new visa but if it is a passport, she does not have to go to the Embassy every time. My meeting with her did not end well, however. I felt like I was kicked in the stomach when I returned home. I felt like it was a nightmare. The whole of Thursday night, I was thinking about what to do to prevent this kind of ugly trend from continuing. I could not sleep. I kept thinking about my conversation with this strange lady. The callous way she described the process and her seeming bluntness, were, to say the least, disturbing. My sleep was labored and I kept having bad dreams. So when I woke up Friday morning, I placed a call to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, but unfortunately, the answering service informed me that I could only get them by phone only on Mondays through Thursdays by 9am-5pm except on public holidays. It was like the nightmare continues.
The more I think about this issue the more I get confused, shamed, disappointed and in fact angry that I have to wait until Monday to say something to somebody about this issue. So I decided to put it out in writing so that Nigerians would do something or say something about it to the highest authority. I have already sent an e-mail to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC to complain about this issue. I hope that something would be done about this and very soon. That brings me to the issue of who can legitimately be issued a Nigerian Passport. Invariably, only citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could be issued with our passport. Chapter III of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates that Nigerian citizenship can only be acquired by birth, by registration or by marriage. It follows that it is criminal for foreign nationals to hold Nigerian passports without first acquiring its citizenship. In this era of financial crimes and advance fee fraud, better known as 419, one would not be surprised if many foreign nationals use Nigerian passports to commit crime and then the international community blames it on Nigerians. Nigeria already has bad name, we all know that but some of the wire crimes are committed by other African countries and claim to be Nigerians.
Also since many Africans claim that they are being abused or persecuted by their government or tribesmen because of one belief or the other in order to get the elusive American Visa, many of them do unimaginable things. Some gullible US Consular officials believe them and issue Asylum Visas to them. In this hard times, people can do anything to come to America, but to put our country in bad light in other to achieve their own selfish end, should be condemned in strong terms since this is a national security issue. I was able to get the Embassy’s contact addresses and phone numbers both in Washington DC, New York and Atlanta so that concerned Nigerians can get in contact with them: 1) Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Tel: DL. 202-822-1557 3519 International Court, NW GL. 202-986-8400 Washington, DC 20008 Ext.1004,1005,1006, 1008,1018 &1020 (2) Consulate-General of Nigeria - Tel: 212-850-2299; 828 Second Avenue 212-850-2235; Ndew York, NY 10017 212-850-2260 (3) Consulate-General of Nigeria - Tel:770-394-6261 8090 Rosewell Road 770-394-6237 Atlanta, GA 30350
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters