I have finally decided to travel to Nigeria after three years of not visiting. My Nigerian passport is expired. I was told it was going to be a long wait to get a new one AKA renewal. I was advised to apply for a visa. Personally I thought that was insane and an assault on my dignity. Applying for a visa to visit Nigeria is like asking for permission before you enter your own house. Please cut off my cojones instead.
So I called the Nigerian High Commission to find out if I can just extend the passport expiration date. No answer. I emailed. Same outcome. Poor.
I went online as you do. Printed off reams of information. Found the link to the Interior Ministry’s website, applied for a renewal. Some of the questions were awkward and head scratching. But I safely navigated after a few tries. To be honest, this is a problem you experience with global corporations too. Online forms designed by Nerdy IT guys who don’t have a clue about real people or think customer service is that thing you get at McDonalds.
Online passport form done, it navigated me to the payment portal, I paid USD106. It issued a receipt. It directed me to the appointment-booking site, booked, received email confirmation. All set.
A week later, I suddenly realised that I had a very important official assignment on the same date as my appointment. So I logged onto the appointment booking website and you had to cancel the date you have before rescheduling. So I cancelled mine, only to realise there were no dates for another month. Thankfully my old date and time came up in the system again and I quickly grabbed it. Phew.
So I did a few Google and Social Media searches and it was a mistake. MISLEADING. There are lots of apocryphal stories online and on social media. Never forget. Someone has uploaded your Google search results on the Internet. You have to make a value judgement on how reliable the source of the information is and NO. Google is not the source. Note to ‘THE RUSSIA DECEIVED US CRY BABIES’ in America. Grow up!
Also Social Media posts are a point in time. Because someone experienced it yesterday does not mean it is so today. Social Media opinions suggested that renewing your passport was a full day job. But that was not the case during my visit. Never forget, dog bite man stories never trend on social media except if it is President Buhari’s distant relation or supporter’s dog. The Human Race is not allowed to completely outsource its thinking people. Stop trying to reverse evolution.
To be fair, the Nigerian High Commission’s website added to the confusion a little bit. There is an immigration guidance document dating back to 2016 that now appears to be out of date. That document referenced postal orders, passport photos etc. None of these are required for renewing your passport. The High Commission should update this document and remove the reference to 2016.
I arrived at the High Commission at 9:20am for my 9:40am appointment. I was gobsmacked when I received a very professional email the day before reminding me of my appointment. The email offered to re – book if the original one was no longer convenient. HOLY MOLLY. Am I dreaming?
It got better. I received a second email on the morning of the appointment, similar to the previous one. Wow. I was impressed but the cynical me knew that those ‘Nerdy’ IT guys can do some magical things with computers if told to. So maybe these are just system-generated emails at the end of the day. No Biggie, Right? Wrong.
I was well received at the door. Just that good old close to over familiarity you can only get from an ethnic person. Seriousness and ‘jokiness’ in one person. You get the sense he could be firm and even rude if you don’t behave yourself.
Straight to the basement. Maybe 10 to 20 people waiting for a mixture of visa and passport related issues. There are lots of seats. A friend who visited last year September said it was rammed. Heaving with people. Perhaps the pre-Christmas rush.
The room wasn’t stuffy. The Bank Cashier Type Counters were properly designated (Visa or Passport). The receptionist guy on the right as you walk down to the basement looked at my paperwork and said there was no need to wait or take a number since I already had an appointment. He told me to go straight to the next free passport counter. All the people on the counter appear to be of a particular ethnic stock and it is not what you think.
The guy attending to me laughed at me a little. I was a bit OTT. I had a back up document for my back up document and a spare copy for my spare copy.
He gave me a ticket and directed me to the Biometrics Enrolment Team on the first or second floor depending on how you count.
The Biometric Enrolment waiting room was spacious. I noted approximately sixty four Seats. They even have a small baby play corner for toddlers. My friend who visited last year said this wasn’t there before or maybe it was and was taken away because of large crowds then. If it is a new thing, kudos to Justice Oguntade who resumed as the High Commissioner to the court of St James in October 2017.
The Queue Manager was like a TV screen. It worked when my friend visited but it wasn’t working while I was there. Perhaps because the queue was only ten people long and someone didn’t see the need to use it. There was also a big screen TV tuned to Ben TV. Music video was on and it later cut to a cooking program before I left. My friend confirmed the (same?) TV was on and tuned to NTA during the September visit.
Instead of the Queue Manager, different staff members of the Biometric Enrolment Team called our names and number. They struggled with the Yoruba names with their funny accents. This section was filled with people from a particular ethnic stock. Maybe this is what you think.
The process was smooth. Special shout out to this particular guy whose diction was perfect, he was respectful and helped people relax. He had a good manner about him too.
Enrolment done. Passport pick up in two weeks. AMAZING.
I was out of the embassy and walking pass Trafalgar Square by 9:53am. 13 minutes after my scheduled appointment. Thirty-three minutes after I got there. VERY IMPRESSIVE.
I will update you when I pick it up.
Baba Grumpy works in financial services in the United Kingdom. He blogs mostly about football at http://babagrumpy.blogspot.co.uk. His Twitter handle is @BabaGrumpy.