The Passport Saga at the Nigerian Consulate in South Africa: A sad reality.

“I am a very serious citizen when it comes to issues that border on immigration, trade , xenophobia and politics. These four matters are too important to be left to our public officials alone and my sense is that our people should deepen their knowledge of these issues and challenge the system whenever these matters are in view.”

The act of speaking truth to power is the most critical act of any leadership. Nigerians are badly led because we are mostly a timid followership and most of us find it difficult to write or act on behalf of the multitude. Well, I have been told by a reliable source that most of the allegations leveled against our Consulate by a gentleman on this platform about passports last week is indeed true. I have also been told that the Consulate is stretched on the passport issue because it deals with Nigerians in nine countries. I have also been told that the Nigerian Immigration Service has acknowledged its massive challenges and that as early as this week or next there will be action taken to ensure passports reach Mzansi.

I went on Twitter and tagged Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (our most powerful international appointee) as well as Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola , Minister of Interior under whose Ministry the Nigerian Immigration Services falls under. I also tagged Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama. the amiable Minister of Foreign Affairs who by the way used to be a diaspora for 32 years. I then tagged Arise News and Sahara reporters. I have also been interviewed by Channels TV last week and the interview is likely to air on TV in Nigeria this week. Channels has also interviewed Consul General Malik in the afternoon after they interviewed me at their Blairgowrie offices in the morning.

I have chosen to speak up on the passport issue not only because I am a victim but because of the many cries of our people of all shades . My own case is also very pathetic having paid at OIS on 30th January and captured on 18th January and was told to look out for notice of collection on Facebook. I have not seen any notice of collection on the Nigerian Consulate Facebook page since I captured on January 18th, two days before Biden was inaugurated. The last notice place there was in early January and no other notice has been placed there. In fact, on the day I went to capture I had to intervene outside the gate because about 8 Nigerians were shouting with the Security about not being allowed to capture even though they had been been given the date January 18th like me.

Apparently, those folks did not get the sms notification to confirm their capture date of the 18th like I did receive on Friday the 15th. When they arrived at the Consulate their names were not on the list at the gate and they went ballistic. They were told to go to OIS which they did in order to get another date and at OIS they were told that they could not give them new dates until later in the afternoon and they decided to go back to the Consulate and cause a scene. It was at the scene stage that I came out after capturing my own biometrics but not after having been required to pay an additional R120 ‘processing fee’ which I did not have on me but was paid for on my behalf by a Good Samaritan named Humpherys who was also capturing at the booth next to me.

I decided to intervene on behalf of the small group of protesters. Some had expired passports with expired permits and others had passports with two months validity and valid permits and there were two ladies who came from Cape Town and had been sleeping rough in Johannesburg for days. I went back to the lady who had captured me with all their notification slips and after five minutes each one of them apparently had capture dates on the system for the next day so I was relieved. The lady also came to the gate to assist the ladies from Cape Town and I drove off to Sandton with two of the protesters in the my car as they were heading in my direction.

I am a very serious citizen when it comes to issues that border on immigration, trade , xenophobia and politics. These four matters are too important to be left to our public officials alone and my sense is that our people should deepen their knowledge of these issues and challenge the system whenever these matters are in view. I may be more inclined to pursue these matters because I believe in social justice, fairness and equity but perhaps also because of my background as a Lawyer , a media personality and a political but above all I speak truth to power and the more powerful the person the more I speak my truth. God Bless is All.

Adetunji OMOTOLA writes from Sandton, Johannesburg
22, March, 2021.