The Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Hon. Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, has revealed that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was mainly responsible for the difficulties being experienced by Nigerians seeking to renew their passports or apply for the issuance of new ones at the Embassy. The ambassador, who made the remarks at a meeting with representatives of the Nigerian community in his office in Berlin, recently, said complaints about service delivery at the Embassy, including difficulties of getting appointments for passport issuance among others were largely reasons the passports had been difficult to get. Recall that Nigerians in Germany have been complaining bitterly about the difficulties they face while seeking appointment for passport renewal or issuance at the Embassy.
The online appointment system often breaks down, many say. The delegation also raised the issue of rumours circulating in the community that some passport applicants pay bribes to get appointment. They also inquired from the Ambassador when the Embassy would begin to issue passports with 10-year validity as this would go a long way to reduce the pressure on the mission. But speaking to the delegation, Tuggar pleaded with Nigerians to exercise patience as there had been a huge backlog of appointments before the pandemic broke out and those who had previously received appointments would have to be served before new applicants are attended to.
The meeting, requested jointly by Nigerian Community Germany (NCG) e.V., Concerned Nigerians in Germany (CNG) e.V. and Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Germany (NIDOG) e.V., was to bring to the notice of the Ambassador the complaints of Nigerians living in the country.
Tuggar explained that the new appointment system was introduced because the former one had been compromised by some unscrupulous elements. The new system was therefore created to make life easy for Nigerians, he said. The Ambassador explained further that he would not like to revert to the old system which “was characterised by touting, corruption and profiteering”. He said: “Please do not allow yourselves to be used by people who want us to move back to the old system for their selfish purposes.
The system is new. Please work with us to improve it.” Tuggar, however, assured that cases of emergency would be attended to by the Embassy to prevent Nigerians from encountering difficulties because their passports expired. He advised those affected to send an email to the Embassy. The Ambassador said the Embassy’s service delivery was also hindered by its limited staff capacity and stock of materials available. “The Embassy lacks the capacity to adequately address the demand for its services and Nigeria does not have the means to expand the capacity at the moment due to the country’s economic situation.
“If you learn of any cases of corruption, please let me know. Any official found involved in racketeering at the Embassy will be sent back home,” the Ambassador vowed. Tugar, however, said the outsourcing of visa issuance was directed by the Federal Government and the Embassy only implemented it, stressing that the machine for its production had not yet been installed at the Embassy. On his part, President of the CNG, Chuks Lewis Ehiwario, said it sometimes takes about one week to be able to log into the online appointment system and when the system opens, there are no open appointments for several weeks. “Many Nigerians have lost their jobs and other opportunities be-cause of their inability to timely renew their passport,” he added. Speaking also, the Immigration Attaché II, Mr. Muyiwa Odunubi, said the online system is programmed to shut down after allotting appointment slots to applicants for a maximum period of 90 days.
“We programme the software such that it cannot allot appointments beyond a period of three months,” Odunubi said. He further explained that the system could only process 25 applications per day. “The problem now has to do with the backlog of people due to the pandemic.”
Earlier, President of the Nigerian Community Germany (NCG) e.V., David Peters, had thanked the Ambassador for meeting with the delegation, and he reiterated the willingness of the Nigerian community to co-operate with the Embassy in the discharge of its duties. Peters faulted the communication policy of the Embassy because Nigerians in Germany were left in the dark about important issues concerning them. He cited the example of visa issuance, which had been outsourced to a private company since last year. Peters also talked about other issues, including the situation of Nigerians in German prisons, women whose children have been taken away from them by the authorities, the fate of Ni-gerians facing deportation and the practice of German authorities sending documents for verification/legalisation to Nigeria instead of to the country’s Embassy in Germany, a process that costs those affected up to 650 euros. He said: “Nigerian organisations only learnt of that policy on the Embassy’s website.
There was no direct communication with the organisations in the Nigerian community who should have been properly informed.” Alhaji Mohammed Bello Musa Anka, Minister in charge of the Consular & Immigration Section, in his intervention, said some leaders of Nigerian organisations often call the Embassy on behalf of desperate passport applicants and the Embassy seeks to help in such situations by giving out emergency appointments without knowing that some of these officials had collected money from the persons they were seeking to help.
“People should come out and say who collected money from them,” Anka said. He blamed those giving out money for appointments for encouraging corruption. Odunubi also added that some unscrupulous Nigerians book several appointment slots which they sell to their fellow Nigerians, claiming that the money is to be paid to Embassy officials for facilitating the appointment. The delegation called for a change of the booking system so that it could issue appointments beyond 90 days. The Ambassador said it’s the prerogative of the German authorities to choose the process of verifying or legalising Nigerian documents and as such the Embassy had no influence on the policy.