Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Nigerian Immigration Service "Long thing"

My Experience (March 2014)
Immigration is the most annoying part of travelling for me. I know they keep our borders safe and all that kinda stuff but is there really no way for them to be more effective? I'm speaking in particular about the Nigerian Immigration Service, the last time i had to go to the immigration office was in 2008 to get my International Passport in Lagos, it was my 1st time there and fortunately i went with my dad, so we did not have to queue for too long before we were attended to. It was pretty straightforward, i filled the documents they gave me, got my face and signature captured when it was my turn on the queue and Voila! i left. My dad eventually picked up the passport for me.
5years later, my International Passport expired and i had to get another one. This would be my 2nd experience at the immigration office, this time around it was in Abuja and i have to say it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life!!!! I started by visiting the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) website so i could find out the procedure and required documents for the process. I noticed a section about all payments for immigration services now being done online, i was impressed! this would ease of the stress of going to the bank and joining the beeline queues i thought; i couldn't have been more WRONG!! I checked their 'Table of fees' to find out exactly how much the renewal would cost before proceeding to their portal to apply online and make payment, all of this was pretty straight forward and i printed all the documents. Next thing to do was to visit their office to get my face and signature captured before it would be processed (You are supposed to be automatically scheduled for an interview date, which you can then reschedule, once you have made payment and also be able to track your application status) and after that go to their office again to pick up, if only it were that easy. 
Their Abuja office is located towards the outskirts of town on the way to the airport and their opening hours are 9am to 4pm or so, which is regular office hours meaning that i have to go there during work hours and because of the distance and queues, i can't go back to work from there. This was my dilemma, how to take a whole day off to go to their office and who will take me there as i had no intention of paying a high cab fare or entering a bus and trekking in. Na so i procrastinate going to their office till it was April. I was given the no. of one of their officers to contact to ease my stress.
There was NOTHING on their website, at the time, stating that your payment would have a validity period and expires after 6months meaning you would have to make another payment after expiration, asides that my payment was not even up to 6months but the officer in charge claimed it was no longer in the system and i would have to make another payment. WOWWWW!!!! na so my money just enter voicemail o my people.
The thing is most of these Government officers hate when you pay for services online as the tips they want can't pass their hands so they make life as difficult as possible for we that choose to embrace the digital age and do everything online. My payment could have easily been on the system but since i cannot access it myself, i have to take their word for it and also they know i won't want to waste money, time and energy again so i'll end up paying in cash to one of the officers to get the process over and done with. This is how they frustrate Nigerians by creating bottlenecks so you have no choice but to end up using them directly for services instead of the systems set up and keep their internal cabals running. Truth is i don't entirely blame them, check the salary schedule of the govt. officers and you'll know why this back-end system thrives.

Back to my story, I eventually had to pay 15k to the officer that was to "help" me to start the process all over again. That's how i ended up paying 24k in total for this my new passport o-e pain me die!!- (i would have paid about the same amount going straight through the back route i might add)  and i got married just some days after i got it. Hian! No way i'm goin through that ordeal again for a change of name in a new passport, so i'm still bearing my maiden name for strictly official purposes, since my Int'l Passport is all i have as my official ID for now.
The officer wrote the necessary letters needed and got the necessary approvals n all while i waited for hours. He assured me my next trip would be just for biometric capture. I wish this was the case.
On my 2nd trip, I was supposed to just have the biometric capture done asap and wait a bit to get my passport, this was not the case. I spent about 2hrs waiting and behold my file was nowhere to be found. I eventually took my leave with another 'assurance' that my file will be found and it will all be sorted out before my next trip there.
On my 3rd trip, I got there around 11:30am and sat with other visitors patiently waiting in the waiting area situated outside the premises on the iron chair under the angry sun. By 1pm, i was ushered into a private office to continue my wait in a cushier chair under the much appreciated AC. By 3pm, i was ushered into a VIP section, way cooler and way smaller crowd with 3 capture machines functioning very well, i waited there patiently hoping this will be my last bus-stop, in my dreams oo. I had  to leave and join d general queue, not my lucky day-seems the officer in charge of my file hadn't tipped d necessary ppl. I had no intention of goin thru dis BS a 4th time so i took matters into my own hands and hustled my way into the biometric capture room for the general populace. I was eventually able to get captured with the one machine working. What a day!
The officer eventually met me up in town with my passport some days later.
Really glad I don't v to do dis again till anoda 5yrs. I hadn't been that stressed in a long while, not even from planning my wedding.

Hubby's Experience (May 2015)
Hubby got his done within 2days, he went only twice. He paid 25k and was giving VIP treatment all through from the waiting area, i might add he didn'y wait more than 20 minutes on both trips, where he did the necessary paperwork to where he did his biometric capture (remember that VIP room i mentioned in my story above? Yuupp, that's the one). He was called when it was ready for pickup and Voila! He has his renewed passport, why can't it be this easy and straightforward with the regular system? because the officers gotta make money outside their pay, that's why. *smh. See why people prefer to just follow the back route straight up. sigh.
I do hope the NIS portal eventually becomes functional and effective so we can get our Int'l Passport at the normal rates not 2x or 3x the price.
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