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Sunday, 22 January 2012

What is your Nigeria Embassy Experience? (part 2)

Snapshot of the packed basement
Let me first thank all those who left comments in the first part of this post last week, I found all your comments very uplifting. The main reason I decided to share this experience was to show that the failings of our government past and present isn't just felt at home but is also felt abroad.

Anyway, we returned to the Nigeria High Commission just before the new year, this time armed with all necessary documents and even took along with us our marriage certificate, who knows if they might start demanding for proof that we're actually married!

On getting there it was the same experience of the previous week replayed; a cramped and crowded room, about 3-hour wait, poor customer service, no baby changing room, lack of disable/buggy access etc. I won't bore you with the details, if you didn't read the first part, you can go to this link.

While we were still waiting to be called, a female immigration officer came to the corner of the room where we managed to secure some seats after standing for about 30minutes. She was after a middle-aged man who was sat opposite us. She called out the name of the person she wanted to see as soon as she came close and the man stood up to go to her and she immediately instructed him, "seat down there", with a very rude tone. The man sat down without uttering a word. The next thing she said to him was, "where is your passport", again in a manner that was quite embarrassing to watch. Then she asked for his marriage certificate but wasn't happy with it for reasons I don't know. She started telling the man off, "why didn't you come with everything complete, in fact you're not prepared"...after stuttering for a few seconds, she asked him to follow her and away they went. I can only imagine the man himself had something dodgy about him that made him not to stick up for himself but does that give her any right to talk down on him in the way and manner she did? As soon as they left everyone around us couldn't believe what they had just watched play out in front of them.

We were finally called, after nearly 3 hours of waiting and followed a male Immigration officer upstairs to get the kid's photographs taken. This time it wasn't a long wait before we were called and attended to by another lady. She asked for my oldest son's name and other details which I told her.. She started questioning why we gave him a short version of his name, and this wasn't done as a compliment but quite arrogantly and patronising. She didn't even wait for me to respond and she started saying, oh, when they grow up now they will start running here to get their name changed and creating more work for us. To say I was stunned was an understatement. I told her in no uncertain terms that he is my son and it is my prerogative to give him any name I wanted. If he grows up and wants to change his name that is his choice but I refuse to be lectured about what is an appropriate name to call my child. As if that wasn't bad enough, my older son wandered to the table opposite us while my wife was getting something from her bag. This other lady just screamed at him, we were all shaken thinking he has done something outrageous. All he did was touch her computer mouse! I couldn't believe anyone could react to a 3year-old in that manner for only touching a computer mouse, absolutely ridiculous.

Anyway, we've successfully collected the passports, after all the hassle.

Having seen the way that place is run, I think they could do with some of these recommendations:

  • Get some properly trained people to work there, many of them have no clue what it means to serve people. They need to be drilled to be courteous, polite and considerate and above all get some manners.
  • Cut the waiting times to about 30-45mins, how do they achieve that? Quite simple, work out how many people visit on average in a day. It's either they reduce the number of appointments in a day or employ more staff and give them processing targets to speed up things.
  • Consider moving to a different office or refurbish the current one to have buggy/disable access, have a family/children area, baby changing facilities
  • Sort out their website to make it more easier to access information and make the information they put their explicitly clear. No need having a website for the sake of having one.

However, the basement area where they cramp people in is a health and safety risk. Instead of just complaining and doing nothing about it, the relevant UK authorities have been informed to hopefully compel them to put things right. I don't want other families to go through the same experience. Our governments need to start treating its citizens wherever they may be with some dignity.

God bless Nigeria.

Friday, 20 January 2012

A country burns

Image source
Nigeria is moving towards a precipice as recent events in the country may suggest. 20 bombs have gone off in Kano and sadly it's just a matter of when and not if the next one will go off. Don't ask me where the next target will be because I haven't got a clue. As if the Christmas day bombings weren't enough and the spate of shootings and killings that followed and now this, a feature that is now familiar with our country.

Nigeria is gradually burning in front of our eyes. Do we continue to do nothing? I don't think so, we've all got to take a stand. It's either we are in support of what is happening or we are against it, we can't afford to sit on the fence.

I really don't care if these mayhem are politically motivated or driven by religious extremism, the truth is that there is a failure of leadership to bring this under control. The primary responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens but they were pre-occupied with the small matter of subsidy removal. Thank God our people resisted it and in the end the voice of reason prevailed.

Nigeria has got to discuss the basis of its political and economic unity, we cannot carry on like this. Time is running out but we hope it doesn't run out before our country implodes.

God bless Nigeria. 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

What is your Nigeria Embassy Experience?

Snaphot of the basement area

Well I'll start by sharing my experience at the Nigeria High Commission recently. We visited their office in central London in December last year to obtain the new e-passport for my children having been given a 6-month appointment back in July when I applied.

On getting there, you are immediately made aware or given the impression that this is Nigeria, all be it in London. Thankfully we met a short queue, not long in the waiting, the bouncer or should I say embassy attendant whose job was to check visitors’ documents was arguing with a lady. From what I overheard, the lady was trying to explain to him that the information he was requesting for wasn't displayed on their website. However, he was having none of it and was talking down this lady displaying so much arrogance and rudeness.

Anyway I and my wife had to lift the buggy whilst also holding my 3-year old as the place had no disable or buggy access. On getting inside to the landing area, we met another 'attendant' who asked what our mission was and I informed him. He led us upstairs to a waiting area which also had a handful of people. After waiting for about half an hour, I had this sneaky suspicion that we weren’t in the right place. As soon as a lady who came to read out some names of people entered the room, I went up to find out from her whom we needed to submit our to. She told us we were at the wrong place that we had to go downstairs. I said to her that one of her colleagues directed us where we were. She insisted we were at the wrong place and so we heeded her advice.

Again, no disable or buggy access to the basement area where we were asked to go. So we had to lift the buggy to the basement area. On getting there, it was like one big market place. The whole place was full of people, the seating area was fully occupied and lots of others standing. It was very stuffy, despite it being a very cold winter’s day but when you've got that many people in a small space you should expect that. I was given a ticket number on presenting my documents to another staff at the basement and that was the beginning of what turned out to be a long, arduous wait. We stood at a corner, with some other families with children, as there were no vacant seats.
Another snapshot of the basemen area

We waited for nearly 3 hours before our number was called. In between, we succeeded in finding somewhere to sit after a family had been attended to and vacated their seats. My older son, was in distress all day and after much discomfort, he fell asleep eventually. My youngest followed suit, poor souls, they must be wondering why we brought them to this hell hole. There wasn’t any changing area for children so it meant nappies had to be changed in the same area people were waiting to be called.

On getting to the counter, I presented my documents to the lady who was attending to me. After perusing through, she told me my children’s birth certificates were missing. I said to her I honestly couldn’t remember seeing this information on the website and I had spoken to an embassy staff the day before and all he advised me to bring along was an authorisation letter including my own passport which I brought along. I requested if they could process the e-passports on the condition that I won’t be able to collect them unless I present the birth certificates but she declined. Fair play to her, at least she was sticking to the rules which I didn’t have a problem with. I had a problem with the fact that I was clearly misinformed by a staff of the commission and the information on their website wasn’t explicit enough either. As we don’t live in London, it felt like it was a wasted journey.

However, on our way out we had to lift the buggy again to the landing area from the basement and I was with the kids while my wife went down to get some items we had left behind. Whilst waiting, this attendant started questioning why I was standing where I was. I explained to him that I was waiting for my wife and we would be leaving in a minute. He didn’t seem satisfied and was more concerned that I left the area. I was quite upset that he was inconsiderate despite seeing that I had two young children I was looking after. How on earth did he expect me to move down the steep stairs with a buggy/child while holding another child? Anyway, shortly afterwards my wife turned up and I gave him a piece of my mind before we made our way out of the building.

We left eventually to return the following week just before the New Year.

I’ll update you in part 2 about what happened and my response to the condition and service in that place which in my view isn't worthy to be called a high commission.

Keep supporting Occupy Nigeria wherever you are and don't forget about 'Give a book, save our future' campaign. The destiny of Nigeria is in our hands.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Occupy Nigeria, A clarion call

I have been moved in recent days by the overwhelming support, courage, bravery and patriotism shown by ordinary Nigerians going out on the streets to demand for change. I commiserate with the families of those protesters whom I consider heroes of Nigeria that have been murdered in recent days by some trigger happy police officers. Their only 'crime' was exercising their democratic right to protest against perceived injustices.

I really don't want to go on about the issues and arguments for or against fuel subsidy because they're well documented. I believe what is unfolding before our eyes are pent-up anger and frustrations for over 50 years of bad governance, social injustice and a blatant disregard for human life in Nigeria. For me there are only really two options left for us, it's either we galvanise this protest into a movement to start the complete reform of our country or we give up and go back to the old ways of complaining and doing nothing about our problems.

Nigerians should also resist the temptation to turn these largely peaceful protests into a tribal diatribe as I have read in some media. The underlying issues behind these protests are bigger than any tribe, individual, politician or geographic region. It's nothing to do with where the protest started or which region is doing more or less. We can only hope that these peaceful protests gain momentum which may galvanise more people and make it truly national.

The Nigeria Police needs to exercise restraint about the way and manner they're handling these protests which from what I read and watch are mostly peaceful. We hope the Police don't become the catalyst to turn this into something that no one wants to see. I pray that God will continue to protect all those that are legitimately making their voices heard back in Nigeria.

Nigeria is gradually being occupied by the forces of change to hopefully displace the pains and long suffering of decades.

God bless Nigeria!

Friday, 6 January 2012

GEJ Presidential Palace Subsidy Must End: Nigerian Bloggers' Protest

Image source

This post is in solidarity with Naijalines's blog campaign against the unnecessary and insensitive fuel subsidy removal. It still remains an irony and defies all human logic that a country blessed with so much natural resources especially oil still struggles to feed its citizens let alone provide them with affordable petroleum products. But then our dear Nigeria is a country at variance with all forms of human and natural justice.

I believe we all have a role to play and take responsibility for the future of our country. Change will never come our way unless we take action and as bloggers, our medium is a very powerful force to challenge the status quo. Like I said before in one of my previous posts, this year is a big year for Nigeria. How do we  reconcile the fact Nigeria intends to spend over $3m to feed the President, an amount enough to pay the wages of hundreds of teachers, Nurses etc, who in my view do a better job. By the way, what does the country's president do with his wages? Isn't he supposed to use his wages to look after himself and his family like everyone else? Well take a look at the list below, if you haven't already, to see the full budget for the president's office and you realise that Nigerians have got to challenge and hold people entrusted with the public purse strings accountable.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", Edmund Burke.

Doing nothing is no longer an option, please support this campaign if you haven't done so already.

PS: Give a book, save our future, is still on-going for those who missed my previous post. Please click on the link for full details.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Give a book, save our future

Image source
Let me first say a happy new year to you all and may your dreams come to fruition this year.  As promised, I’m embarking on a campaign, ‘Give a book, save our future’.

Quite simply, as some of you may well be aware that I’m a teacher and someone with a deep passion for education.  I believe God used education to make a huge difference in my life and continues to do so. I’ll regard my life’s journey as unfulfilled if I fail to give back to society in any way I can. As a Nigerian, we can be quite critical about the many wrongs in our society and most times rightly so. But I also believe we can take action by making small contributions that can only help improve our society. I’m a firm believer that whatever change we seek will only happen if we take action to accomplish them. I’m not in any way claiming this campaign will change the world but it certainly won’t make it any worse.

What is the purpose of this campaign?
I believe education remains the key that will unlock Nigeria’s future. Good education can only be possible with access to books, something that many Nigerian children are denied. So I’ve decided that if we keep waiting for the Nigerian governments at all levels, we might be waiting for a long time.

How will this campaign work?
This campaign which starts from today will involve awareness and invite people to donate old or used books they no longer need or are quite happy to give which are in fairly good condition. They can range from academic books, for primary and secondary school age, fiction, non-fiction etc.

Who can get involved?
This campaign is open to all. You can kindly donate a book or books.

How can you get involved?
You can get involved by help spreading the word via your blogs, websites, through friends, family etc. This campaign is not about me, I just see myself as a facilitator. It’s more about the ordinary Nigerian children who have limited access to books and whom this campaign will benefit eventually. You can also get involved by choosing to become a co-facilitator of this campaign and be actively involved in its operations.

How long will this campaign last?
This campaign will last for at least 6 months, up to the summer to enable us raise our initial target of 1000 books (an ambitious target) you might think but quite achievable I would like to believe.

Who will benefit from this campaign?
The plan is to partner with at least 3 schools especially in deprived areas in Nigeria in the first instance. The intention is to ensure that the books are donated for use in each school’s library for use by all students. Where a school library doesn’t exist then we can encourage them to set up one to enable students borrow or use these books for study.

Do you know of any school that could benefit from this campaign? If so please get in touch and let me know how you can be of help in making the necessary contacts needed to get things started.

How will this campaign be funded?
This will be a 100% charitable campaign. I am not asking for money, all I’m asking for is publicity, donations of old or used books for primary and secondary age or any book that will benefit young people. We'll also be soliciting for logistic support to send these books to Nigeria at the appropriate time.
All books collected will be accounted for. At the end of the campaign, details of the schools where these books have been donated to will be made available. Regular updates will be made available on this blog and on my education blog.

How can I send my book donations?
If you live in the UK or Ireland, please email me at:  or and I’ll provide you with the address where donations can be sent to.
If you live in the US, Canada, or other parts of Europe, perhaps you may want to lead this campaign where you are which will be quite awesome if you can. Those in Nigeria, we would even rely on your massive support in recommending schools and mobilising where you are.

At the time of writing this post, I've already collected about 100 ICT books (which is my subject specialism by the way) which we were going to throw away but I said no way. I knew it will be of immense benefit to our young people whose access to books is somewhat limited. That was really the time the idea for this campaign first crossed my mind. After months of dithering, I feel it's something I have to do. 

How can I get updates about the work of this campaign?
I will provide regular updates to show how much books have been donated and by who. I can use pseudo names for those who don’t want their real identities revealed. I have contacted a media outlet in the UK (BenTv) and I’m currently in discussion to see how they may help us get the word out to the Nigerian community and even others. I’m also in the process of contacting VoxAfrica, another UK based media outlet for Diaspora people.

In whatever way you want to support, please feel free to let me know on here or send me an email if you prefer. Also please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Advice and constructive criticisms are most certainly welcome.

This will be a challenge no doubt but one that I believe can succeed with your help and support. And if we succeed, we would together have made a small difference to the lives of some young people in Nigeria, and in doing so, maybe save their futures. And who knows, perhaps save our country’s future.


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