In Abuja, To Repair My Passport By Chika Ezeanya

Dr. Chika Ezeanya
Columnist: 
Guest Columnist

After nearly being declared persona-non-grata on arrival at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport  - for the crime of being in possession of a ‘damaged’ passport - it became mandatory to visit Abuja and have my passport ‘repaired.’  (On Arrival at Murtala Muhammed Airport. http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/chika-ezeanya/on-arrival-at-murtala-...)

During the trip to the capital city, I comforted myself with the thought that it will be a quick-fix. As the alleged fault was with broken electronic chips, I imagined that my dealings will be with a passport electrician or rewire. He would take one expert look at my passport, place it under some sort of microscope for a more intense scrutiny, slide it open with some sophisticated gadget and fix it within an hour, all at a minimal cost. Perhaps, we will even haggle over the cost as is the habit with all repairmen.  

My travails began at the entrance gate of the Immigration Office. With a deep-etched frown and a violent wave of the metal detector, my taxi was ordered to turn back at the gate by one of the numerous security men in Immigration uniform. I alighted, and walked towards the officer. Looking the other way, and with a dismissive wave of hand, as if shooing a dog away, he directed me to a bungalow by the perimeter fence. Following, I found myself inside a large, almost bare room, but for a desk, two chairs and a noisy ceiling fan. Two ladies sat chatting away. One rose absent mindedly and reached for my bag. The other proceeded to run a metal detector across the length of my frame and afterwards felt all over my body with her hands.
    

‘Is it new passport or renewal?’ She asked as she felt here and there for an AK47, strapped bomb, charms and amulets.
  

 ‘No, it’s nothing serious,’ I reassured her. ‘Just a case of a damaged passport.’
    

‘That one na new issuance.’ It was her turn to assure me.
  

 ‘No,’ I insisted. ‘My passport will expire in 2016. It’s just the electronic chips that need fixing.’

She laughed as if I was insisting that she was European and not African. ‘Aunty, I am telling you. It is treated as new issuance.’
    

‘Are you serious?’ I gave out my involuntary exclamation phrase. ‘How long will that take?’
  

 ‘It’s up to you.’ She answered with a shrug, looking away. ‘As you are early today, if you want it tomorrow morning, we can arrange. But if you go inside it will take about five days.’ She had finished frisking my torso and stood staring at me.
Images of papers, workshops and classes I needed to deliver, filled my mind. ‘Madam, I have to leave this country day after tomorrow, no matter what.’
    

‘It’s possible,’ she nodded with a smile and looked away. The other officer had gone outside to take a call. I waited for her to complete her sentence, but she looked on straight ahead, an indication that the continuation of the conversation was up to me.
    ‘How do I go about it?’ I asked.
  

 ‘Its N35,000. We do it for people all the time.’ She answered nonchalantly, going back to her seat and humming to the tune of Dbanj’s Oliver Twist. My heart skipped a beat or two. I could barely feed after giving out all the money, clothing and just about everything I came home with. Where did she expect me to get N35,000 from?
  

 ‘N35,000?’ I repeated in a voice that came out sounding as if she had asked for my life in exchange for a new passport. ‘For what?’
  

 “Emergency.” She threw out casually.

A lady entered and the officer stood up to hug her warmly calling her ‘my sister.’  Must be family, I thought, stepping aside to allow for familial exchanges, and to make enough room for the lady’s richly embroidered, flowing Arabian gown.  The officer reached for her skirt, and grabbing a heavy bunch of keys, opened a drawer and retrieved four passport documents that she handed to the lady.
Heavy gold bracelets jingled as she thumbed through the passports. Her generous smile showed a gold tooth. Money changed hands, and it was the officer’s turn to smile.
    

‘I will send my sister tomorrow. She needs the same service.’ The officer’s ‘sister’ said as she turned to go. ‘She will call you before she comes.’
  

 ‘No problem.’ The officer rose to see her ‘sister’ off a few meters outside the door.  
Back inside the room, she extended the Naira notes to me, ‘It’s good as you are here now, count and see that I did not charge you.’
 

I refused to take the money from her hand. She would go on to insist ‘Count it, Aunty. I charged this woman 35,000 per one and I did four passports for her. Why should I cheat you? ‘

I snapped out of my shock and told her that I would rather go inside to see what I could do for myself.
    

‘Oya come,’ Her tone was a bit lower. ‘How much do you have?’

didn’t have anything, I told her that. I thought I was coming to repair a passport, not procure a new one – I had made absolutely no budget for a new passport.

She asked that I wait, pulled out her phone and put a call through. She interspaced every word with ‘sir,’ as she tried to explain ‘my situation.’
 

Turning to me after her call, she declared, ‘Aunty, we are all human beings. As you have explained your predicament to me, and you know say am not the one that will do it, I will give it you for N28,000, last.’ Her face was sober, as if she just lost a dear friend to a road accident. To my God who made me and you,’ she swore, touching her tongue with the tip of her forefinger and lifting it to the ceiling, ‘I will not even gain anything myself.’
I thanked her for her kindness and proceeded on the long trek from the gate to the main administrative building.

Inside, I was informed that the Nigeria Immigration Service does not hire passport mechanics, electricians or rewires. ‘You need a new passport, madam,’ came the curt reply. My explanations about how I had never heard of a damaged passport in any part of planet earth, and how I did not budget for a new passport and how the expiry date was 2016, were met with disinterested looks and blank stares. I was directed to an office, which ended up becoming my home for four harrowing days.

After parting with less than half the amount charged at the gate, I was issued a new passport. Now, each time I handle the passport, a prayer pours forth from my lips; I supplicate for the longevity of the electronic chips. Please join me in prayers.

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The Corrupt Federal Republic of Nigeria

What is most troubling about Chika's harrowing experience with her passport in Nigeria, is the tone of some of the comments posted by some readers. It seems as if many Nigerians have resigned their fate to accepting that corruption is inevitable in our unfortunate country. What Chika did was the appropriate thing : she refused to play along with those who continue to rubbish the name of this country in the mud, even at the expense of extending her stay in Nigeria. And by the way, she never implied that she eventually paid a bribe. My understandind is that she paid less than half the 35000 Naira as official price when she eventually got her new passport. When a Rawlings comes to clean up our Augean stables, it will be necessary to get rid of not only the corrupt leaders, but also their facilitators.

It is annoying to hear how

It is annoying to hear how people 1) justify corrupt workers (hence a corrupt culture)-- that have nothing to do with the government and 2) ignore the fact that she had a flight to catch the next day.

This is what I have to say to those who do the above:

One, if the right price was printed and openly available to everyone, she wouldnt need to feel the need to haggle prices. In fact, she wouldnt be here.

Two, if you have been anywhere were things were straightforward, you would understand why having a "sliding scale of fees" is a problem.

Three, if you had something to do within a short period, you would understand why she was under pressure to "do whatever seemed fair to get her passport repaired.

Its 2012, stop justifying corruption, and when people explain their experiences, be smart enough to show empathy.

u settled, so why distract us

u settled, so why distract us with this lousy piece? Dr, every monkey is a doctor in nigeria...i beg jooo, next time you post this kind of article, we'll tax you for wasting our time

idiot

You just an idiot to say that she is annoying, you are the annoying one they need to lock you up with the people in Abuja asshole.

This girl is very annoying.

This girl is very annoying. Are you the only one that has left Nigeria ( or the first to get a PHD "doctor"??), acting shocked because someone asked you for a bribe. Its not her fault, its her friend at Sahara reporters that allowed her to post this article's fault. If you want to write an article, write about the nepotism that allowed you post this useless article. Who doesn't know people ask for bribe in Nig. 5 minutes of my life I would never get back - wasted on reading this garbage

You should not Expect NIS to fix a chip for you.

-When your passport has a problem the normal remedy is to replace it, even if it is less than one year old. You were told the truth but your expectation of a repairman will do it, beclouded your understanding. I am sure the idea of "repairing a passport" is strange to many not just myself. I am glad you got it replaced, and learnt a bit about the transformation of Jonathan. Before, it would have taken two weeks to get a new one at the official price.

Passport Repair?

Why travel to Nigeria to repair your passport? You can do it in any country you live in. Was this real or a satire?

@ CHRIS SHE GAVE BRIBE

@CHRIS YOU MUST BBE CHIKA REPLYING AS UNDER A FAKE NAME OR YOU ARE JUST A DUMMY. WHERE DID MISS CHIKA SAY THAT SHE PAID ONLY THE RIGHT AMOUNT. SHE GAVE BRIBE AFTER ACTING TOO GOOD, THAT IS HOW SHE WAS ABLE TO GET IT.
MY PROBLEM IS THAT SHE PRETENDS TOO MUCH. SHE CRIOTICIZED WIGS AND HAIR ATTACHMENTS, BUT NEVER LOOKS NATURAL. LOOK AT BHER HAIR.
SHE GAVE BRIBE AND NOW WANTS TO SPEAK USELESS OYIBO.

This is me, EZE IGBO NA DAMATURU

You pretend to be educated

You pretend to be educated throwing words around.
You just showed youreself to be nothing but ignorant.
If you took your time to read,you will note that what she parted with was the legal fees required for a new passport.
You my friend are the problem.

@DIKE ANAGBALU IZU

"IF YOU CANNOT PAY DO NOT TRAVEL NEXT TIME.I AM TIRED OF ALL THESE WHINNING...THE WOMEN NEED MONEY FOR THEIR CHILDREN,STOP BEING STINGY."??? Whaaaa???This kind of robbery mentality is precisely the reason,we are where we are today.People like you are convinced you are entitled to help yourselves into other people's pocket.If your victims resist,then you get angry.You are not even ashamed to put your (family) name to that shameful comment?I think we need a new begin and orientation in Nigeria, our country has been overrun by the "DIKE ANAGBALU IZUs" of this world :)

So what's new here?

Chika darling, welcome to the real world, my sister. Na our naija be dat! No long tin! We blame our leaders but our people are infact more corrupt, as you have seen! Abeg, leave mata for matta!

Why did U come back? Stay in

Why did U come back? Stay in Ur USA and enjoy good services. Its ppl like U who have refused to help this country grow and now U come back and magically expect things to be perfect.

welcome to Nigeria

Welcome to Nigeria where nothing works! I wonder why everybody is busy stealing from the govt, fellows,companies,working places even church and mosques and we believe things will change. Dear Chika, next time make sure you get their names published- the revolution and attitudinal change must start somewhere. What a country?

Disappointed???

To the one who is 'highly disappointed'- pray tell- young sir or ma- why you would be disappointed in Chika?! With all due respect, your disappointment is misdirected-save it for officials like the ones who traumatised her pocket.
Would you rather she flatly refused, at the risk of her world being brought to a standstill on account of the bloody 'damaged passport'? You may not have an idea of how much frustration these people are capable of creating, until you grease their palms.
Its simply disgusting; and I get infuriated all over again as I remember similar experiences that I have had in the past.And its not just the immigration officers, this sick attitude is pervasive! You don't want to know what some people go through to retrieve documents from their alma mater.
Sigh. May God save us.

ALWAYS COMPLAIN

ALWAYS ONE SAD STORY FROM YOU AFTER ANOTHER. YOU MUST BE A VERY UNHAPPY PERSON, WHY NOT SEE AT LEAST ONE GOOD THING ABOUT YOUR OWN COUNTRY? IF YOU CANNOT PAY DO NOT TRAVEL NEXT TIME. I AM TIRED OF ALL THESE WHINNING.
YOU ACT AS IF YOU ARE TOO GOOD FOR NIGERIA BUT YOU ARE NOTHING. IF YOU DON'T LIKE NIGERIA DO NOT COME BACK WE ARE NOT MISSING YOU. THE WOMEN NEED MONEY FOR THEIR CHILDREN, STOP BEING STINGY.

THIS IS ME

EZEIGBO NA DAMATURU

Sorry, Chika but you'r part of the problem

We all complain about the problems in Nigeria but when opportunity comes our way to be part of the solution we fail WOEFULLY. Chika had an opportunity to confront the corruption at the passport office but she failed woefully. Until we'r ready to make little sacrifices here and there to confront the challenges in our country, the much expected progress we expect will continue to elude us.

Do it abroad.

If you are living abroad, dont bother going to Nigeria to renew your passport. Simply go to Nigerian Embassy in the country of your residence to renew or get a new one. I obtained a new one for my expired passport at Nigerian Consulate in Georgia, USA yesterday- Total cost $95. They dare not ask you for bribe in America.

i had the exact same experience

hi it was as if i was reading my own story. but in my case i had to pay 6k for every movement of my file from one point to another cos it was a case of "missimg" passport or so they say. i pray never to go back to that hell hole again . i wish they would start re issue in the states so that i can go home to do it.

NEPA NA ROGUE

The NEPA people said you can get pre paid meter for FREE . The people in the offices are demanding money . Try Otta, Osogbo and Ilesa offices of NEPA. They are ROGUES

Weeping for Nigeria

Just came back myself from a trip to Nigeria.I am shocked at how much it is taken for granted that you have to bleed to get anything done in Nigeria.I had to ask an official in a Local Government in Lagos state(after demanding an outrageous sum for doing his job),why is it that everyone is robbing everyone in Nigeria.That armed robbers use weapons to rob,while others use their offices or whatever power (arm) to rob. We are a country of armed robbers

Just came back myself from a

Just came back myself from a trip to Nigeria.I am shocked at how much it is taken for granted that you have to bleed to get anything done in Nigeria.I had to ask an official in a Local Government in Lagos state(after demanding an outrageous sum for doing his job),why is it that everyone is robbing everyone in Nigeria.That armed robbers use weapons to rob,while others use their offices or whatever power (arm) to rob. We are a country of armed robbers

You are the PROBLEM WITH NIGERIA

This is the problem with Nigeria - we aid and abet corruption and then we turn around to say the leaders are bad. The followers are equally as guilty as the leaders when it comes to corruption.

I am disappointed in you that you eventually parted with "something for the boys".

There is something called collateral damage - unintended consequence of taking an action. We should all be willing and ready to sacrifice something if corruption must be fought to a standstill - it is not "fighting" corruption on the pages of newspapers or websites that will solve the problem.

Again, I am highly disappointed in you to say the least!

Congratulations Dr. that is

Congratulations Dr. that is niger for you, may God help us.

City of Fraud

Chika, you aren't patriotic in your article. The immigration officials wear name tags, why didn't you give us their names?

Abuja smells fraud, and that place would be considered the headquarters of fraud in the civil service. Ministry of internal affairs. Only God knows the nos of people that have been duped for jobs that were being sold for as much as #350,000.

They would only read the article and tell themselves, i beg ohhh, make una small small oohhh.

Long thing can only give birth to a long thing. "do they give a dammmmmmmmm "?

Good article. Interesting,

Good article. Interesting, funny and very informative in terms of the corruption which is eating Nigeria alive.

Hahahaha. Well written piece.

Hahahaha. Well written piece. It is the normal way of doing business in Nigeria. If you need something asap, especially from government agencies, you need to pay a premium.
Anyway, the new Nigerian Passport with the electronic chip is quite fragile and I remember at the point of obtaining one, we were warned to handle it carefully. We were especially told to avoid the usual stapling of two passports together, stapling any form of paper to it etc.

Chika's passport

my sista (if you permit),

I have already started doing those prayers for you:

Kyrie Eleison and Alhamdullilahi !

will do some more later in the day.

your

true brodda

But:

you will have to do some for ME, since I have been through many similar experiences in
Nigerian embassies:

AMIN !!!

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