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Memorable Bitter-Sweet Encounters at the Lagos Passport Office

The sun was struggling to break through the thick, cumulous cloud when I arrived at the Immigration office with my family. The sun won as the cloud soon retreated, giving way to a brighter day. That was late last year. But midweek in April this year, the sun lost the contest to the fiery cloud that ushered heavy downpours. The crowd was huge. There were not enough spaces to shelter the numerous visitors. I bent forward and removed my suit to shelter cold and shivering kids. The reception was too dense and could not have taken the mammoth crowd all seething for Nigerian passports which one mission: Get out of Nigeria
Throughout my many visits spanning months since last year, the human cacophony did not change.
Each day, heavy human traffic file in a row: Women, children, armed and defenceless people alike. Some of the women were pregnant, and some held on to their infants, strapped on their backs. Oldies were not left out, in their 60s, 70s and at least one old woman admitted she would clock 80 in June.
Students, workers, military men and police, retired, peasants, cobblers, able, and people living with disabilities.
There was a middle-aged man. His destination is ‘Just any country in America’.
Caleb had travelled to Libya by road, spending four months, passing through Niger, the Southern part of Algeria, through the terrible corridor manned by armed Tuaregs before ending up in Sirtre, a city in Libya. He knew no one in the Arab country. He soon found himself in the camp of deportees, ninety per cent of who were Nigerians holding fake passports of different countries, manufactured in Nigeria, hoping the Libyan authority would deport them to the country which passport they held.
The fake passports were manufactured at Oluwole, a crime hub in downtown Lagos.
But this time, unlike before, the Libyans bundled them back to Southern Algeria, through the same illegal, harrowing route they had endured, back to their homeland, Nigeria, which they loath with bitter passion.
A group of three friends told me they wanted to relocate to Gambia. One middle-aged woman sought Malta, two young men wanted Cyprus and a man living with a disability told me his dream was to get out of Nigeria to ‘anywhere in Europe or North Africa’
A young mother of two said she lost her husband to the murderous bile of herdsmen in Jos. She relocated to Lagos in search of greener fortunes. She had worked for three years as a waitress in a bar. She claimed she had saved enough money to ‘move out of Nigeria to just anywhere in the Middle East preferably Dubai.’
For each day I visited, it was one sordid story of people scrambling to leave their fatherland.
A 60-year
Muktar from Southern Zaria told me ‘I just want to get out of Nigeria ’
How, when, and where he had no answers, but first, he needed a passport.
The number of retirees wanting to leave the country is most intriguing. One of them told me he came from Ihiala in the South East.
Having lost three children to armed bandits in the North all he wished was to spend her last days with her only surviving child who relocated abroad in 2021.
Funny enough, workers in the financial institutions, I met. At least one of them claimed to be a Bank Manager.
I called him aside. He told me: ‘I don’t have peace of mind. Each time my children go to school and I go to work, I’m troubled until they return. My neighbour’s daughter got missing. I just realise life is becoming so insecure in Nigeria.’
He said following the cash swap, introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria,(CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, some of the banks have sent many workers packing while pressure is mounting on workers to bring in reluctant depositors.
Another man from Ibadan in his 40s said he belongs to one of the “slaves” in a bank hired and placed on a salary but only 60 per cent of the salary is paid to them. The consultants take the remaining 40 per cent.
‘I just want peace of mind,’ he said. Many Nigerians now seek mostly economic refugee abroad, even though many are constantly repatriated
The International Organisation for Migration this week said about 3,363 Nigerians were evacuated between January and May this year from different countries including Mali and Libya.
Of all the State institutions, it appears that Immigration is one of the most overwhelmed in meeting the daily requests for services from Nigerians.
I was told the situation in other Passport offices across the country is similar if not the same. There are eight Zonal Passport offices in Nigeria, 36 state commands, and five other special commands with a presence in 774 local governments and 45 missions abroad.
In 2022, immigration produced some 1.7m passports, some 80 per cent more than earlier productions in the preceding years. The passport is also wearing a new, beautiful look. I was told there are more security features than before. There is an interesting aspect that caught my attention.

Nigerian Immigration and the country’s image

Immigration officials are the first ambassadors and public immigration officials of any country. They are the first to be encountered by visitors from all over the world. Unruly and corrupt immigration department puts any country automatically in a bad light. Though many Nigerians are looking for passports, those who spoke to me said they did not experience bribery in the course of their attempt to secure the International Passport, which is quite unusual in a country rated as one of the most corrupt.
This position may not be 100 per cent correct but it appears the work ethics by the Passport officials remain remarkable.
Many visitors who spoke to me said the issuance of passports is delayed but that they did not experience demand for bribes from the Passport officials at Alausa while they equally commended the quality of human relations of the immigration officials unlike the tradition in the past or the possible situation in other parts of the command.
This is an aspect that interests me. I then tool time to monitor immigration officials throughout my months-long visits.
My findings reinforce my belief that in spite of the high rate of corruption and ineptitude in Nigeria, in this country, there are still dedicated, honest, and diligent public servants.

Public service through honesty is possible in Nigeria

I observed that the immigration officials are having a tough time dealing with the upsurge, yet they handle the situation with politeness.
The increasing number of Nigerians seeking International Passports should automatically aid corruption at the Alausa immigration offices, I thought
If your experience differs, please forgive me. I’m writing about my own experience spanning months.

I find at Alausa Immigration office dutiful, diligent and fairly honest officials.

On several occasions that I visited the Passport office, the leadership impressed me.

Interestingly, the person in charge is a woman. I have been informed the work ethic at Alausa was initiated by her giving renewed hope to almost a crestfallen country. Various researchers have proved that women ate less corrupt than men. Alausa Immigration office has further established this truth.

I left with the impression that Nigeria can change. Leadership can be made to be responsible and dedicated to human dignity.

We only need a few examples to inspire millions of Nigerians.

I was told the Passport Control Officer, Mrs G. Chukwumanedo is the silent motivator and the motivation can be seen by all visitors.
I do not know what the ‘G’ stands for; probably Grace or Gloria. A group of Asians that I met at the office told me her interaction was the one any great country should hope for.

I was motivated to monitor her. She resumes before 7.30 am. On each occasion, she would come out to address the crowd, workers and visitors, before the start of duties. She would tell the crowd to be orderly, pleading with them to remain patient so that each of them would be attended to.

She sternly warns them that the office does not condone any form of bribery or corruption. She then would warn visitors to learn to use their International Passports for the good of Nigeria.

She told them the office would give priority to children and the elderly.

She would then preach a sermon on ethics, orderliness, good behaviour and that holders of Nigerian passports are the country’s ambassadors. This is fascinating. I have never encountered such in my long history of visiting passport offices across Nigeria.

Mrs Chukwuma Edo has taken public service to new heights. After her lectures on ethics, she retires to her office to see everyone wishing to see her, the poor, the ordinary men and women and people of influence who must wait in the vast reception to be called in one after the other.

Even in the face of immense pressure, she never caved in.

For her, the day must start with thanksgiving and prayers led by her. She would take the praise worship to the delight of people of all faith, officials and workers.

She would then ask Muslims and other faithful to pray. After that, she retires to her office to receive an endless stream of visitors from morning until sundown. I am impressed by her energy. I am fascinated by her work ethics. It strengthens the struggle for more women inclusion in leadership in Nigeria.

Visitors express great impressions about her diligence. On one occasion, while I was waiting with others at the reception, one angry, growling journalist forced his way into her office, shouting and banging anything on sight. He had been pursuing his passport for months and wanted a solution ‘Today’.

Mrs Chukwuma gave her full attention, explaining to her the processes and the reality of the challenges they sometimes face. She then stood up to accompany the journalist to the necessary officials.

It simply shows that if Nigerian public servants work with a nationalistic spirit borne out of selflessness and genuine commitment to duty, hope for a more extraordinary country that all of us would be proud of will no longer be a fleeting illusion. At Nigeria-s immigration offices at the country’s airports, corruption, and ineptitude remain. If the Chukwuedo model is implemented, Nigeria will move a bit far away from her current red light district of corruption in international rating.

Adewale Adeoye is a multiple award-winning journalists and 2001 CNN African Journalist of the Year Awar Winner


Nigerian Man Defrauds 34 victims in 13 countries of $592,000

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Thursday, secured the conviction and sentencing of Eze Harrisson Arinze before Justice J.K Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for defrauding 34 victims in 13 countries of $592,000(Five Hundred and Ninety Two Thousand United States Dollars).

Arinze was re-arraigned on one count charge bordering on impersonation and obtaining under false pretence.

The amended count charge reads:

That you, EZE HARRISON ARINZE alias Charlotte Brain, sometime between April, 2021 and December, 2022 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, did fraudulently impersonate one Charlotte Brain a purported owner of digitrades.netxxxxxxxxxxxxxx investment platforms on telegram and in that assumed character obtained cryptocurrency worth $592,000.00 (Five Hundred and Ninety Two US Dollars) from Coinbase exchange users, through your bitcoin address -333AgHuT8wAhowRBQZ2ASxxxxxxxx domiciled with Coinbase, a Virtual Asset Service Provider and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 22(3)(b) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, 2015 and punishable under Section 22 (4) of the same Act.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge when it was read to him.

In view of the plea, prosecution counsel, Christopher Mshelia, urged the court to convict and sentence the defendant as charged.

Earlier, Ogunjobi Olalekan, a prosecuting witness and a detective of EFCC, while concluding his testimony-in-chief, told the court that the evidence gotten in the course of investigation was based on the printout from the defendant`s email, other digital currency platforms, his telegram page code named `Digi-trade, including response from banks which was in a cumulative sum of $592,000 worth of cryptocurrency as at December 4, 2023.
He added that the defendant was afterwards invited to make statements under words of caution.

Justice Omotosho convicted and sentenced Arinze to three years imprisonment, with an option of N3,000,000.00( Three Million Naira only) fine. He added that 11.07 Bitcoins valued at $461,280.70 as at December 4, 2023 be restituted to the 34 victims from 13 countries as identified.

Furthermore, the judge ordered that a total sum of N37,977,108 domiciled in his bank accounts be forfeited to the Federal Government, including a plot of land located at plot No. 34 Anioma Layout, Umuchigbo Iji-nike in Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State measuring approximately 1380.609 Squares meters.

Arinze’s journey to the Correctional Centre started when he impersonated one Charlotte Brain, and created a fictitious investment platform, digitrades.netxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on telegram and in that assumed character, obtained cryptocurrency worth $592,000.00 (Five Hundred and Ninety Two US Dollars) from Coinbase exchange users, through his bitcoin address.
His victims are from Burundi, Cameroun, Costa Rica, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Rwanda, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, United States of America and Zimbabwe.

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Abdulfatai Adeyemi, son of late Alaafin, dies few hours to his 47th birthday

Prince Abdulfatai Adebayo Adeyemi, one of the sons of the immediate past Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Atanda Olayiwola Adeyemi, is dead.

The Prince, popularly known as D-Gov, died in the early hours of Friday at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan after battling diabetes.

His father died in April, 2022.
The Oyo prince, who was the immediate past Chairman of Oyo State Local Government Pension Board, died a few hours to his 47th birthday.

Abdulfatai was the House of Representatives candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 elections.

The election was won by his younger brother, Prince Akeem Adeyemi (Skimeh), who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

A family member in Oyo said on Friday: “Yes. He is dead. People are there now. They are preparing the grave”.

The Public Relations Officer of UCH, Mrs Funmilayo Adetuyibi, confirmed the death of the late Alaafin’s son, saying that he died at the hospital on Friday morning.

Adetuyibi said that AbdulFatai was brought to the hospital around 12.05 a.m. on Friday and died at exactly 3:50 a.m.

She, however, declined when asked about the disease that the late Oyo prince was suffering from which eventually resulted in his death.

“I can’t disclose his diagnosis or what killed him because it is against our professional ethics,” the UCH spokesperson said.
Another source from UCH also spoke about the death of the late Alaafin’s son.

“Fatai Bayo Adeyemi, one-time Secretary of Atiba Local Government, died this morning (Friday). He was married with children. He was reported very ill sometime last year but survived,” the source said.

AbdulFatai’s death, it was gathered, has thrown the family of the late Oba Adeyemi and the ancient town of Oyo into mourning.

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NEMA donates relief materials to victims of Tudun Biri bombings

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has donated relief materials to the victims of Tudun Biri bombings in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

Alhaji Abbani Garki, North-West Zonal Coordinator of the agency, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Kaduna.

According to him, the donation is not compensation for the loss of lives, but a token to bring relief to the victims.

He condoled with the Kaduna State Government over the loss of lives as a result of the accident.

They include surgical and disposable gloves, drip sets, cutting bandages, plasters, cotton wool, hand sanitizers, methylated spirits, Syringe and needles, among others.

The food items were; 500 bags of rice, 500 bags of maize, 500 bags of beans, 500 cartons of spaghetti, 50 kegs of vegetable oil, 50 bags of salt and 50 cartons of tin tomatoes.

The non food items were; 500 pieces each of blankets, plastic buckets,plastic cups, men’s wear, women’s wear and children’s wear.

He said that the medicament have been delivered to  44 Army Reference Hospital and Barau Dikko Specialist Teaching Hospital, all in Kaduna.

Speaking on other emergency needs of the community based on the agency’s assessment, he said the area urgently required access roads, security, schools, water, electricity and health facilities.(NAN)

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