Written By Abisoye Akinola


It’s a strange phenomenon. You’re in a foreign country with it’s nice roads and sidewalks, walking without fear of an Okada knocking you down and then you walk into a Nigerian embassy. And you are suddenly, literally in Nigeria. Dirty carpeting, half broken chairs, tables in the reception that look like they’ve seen better days. Disgruntled people waiting and talking loudly and angrily. Like any typical civil service office in Naija. Naija perfectly replicated in a building in a foreign country where everything works.

I’ve seen videos and read posts in the past of the horrors Nigerians go through trying to renew their passports while abroad. I’ve experienced the embassy in Atlanta with its filthy look and rude filipino receptionist (she looked filipino to me). I’ve seen a girl wailing on camera about the Nigerian embassy somewhere in Canada and how she was going to burn her Nigerian passport. I’ve read horror stories about the one in London. I’m not the only one that knows how terrible the embassies are.

But for some reason, I thought the one in Paris will be different.

So I paid for the new passport since January. After payment, I realised I could not book an appointment on the embassy’s website. There was an announcement on the website that they were having technical issues but things will be resolved by the 11th of January. But this was already the end of January when we made the payment so it seemed a little strange that an announcement saying things will be sorted out by the 11th was still up. So I spent a couple of days checking the website. No change. Then I started calling. The phone was left to ring off the hook. One day someone finally picks up, tells me (in the thickest Yoruba accent I’ve EVER heard) that the ‘machine’ is working again, I should go back to the website to book an appointment. Website still isn’t working. After that nobody ever picks that phone again. So for two months I’ve been checking the website.

TWO MONTHS after payment.

And there are warnings all over the website not to show up at the embassy without an appointment.

I finally decided yesterday that I’d had enough and went there.

And I stepped into Nigeria.

“You should have booked by phone” (Huh??😳😳NOBODY WAS PICKING UP!!)
“We are fully booked till July” (Huh????)
“We cannot take any more bookings at the moment” (HUH??????????!!!!!!!)
“The ambassador told us to stop taking bookings”…. (😧😧🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️)

Everything I put in brackets is what was going on in my head.

Why are we like this??!! Who did we offend??!!

How did they get fully booked??!!! Nobody has been picking that darn phone!! 😠😠And there is no update on the website saying book over the phone!

In short, the only way in would have been if I knew an insider, or maybe pay someone to speed things up (like is commonly done in Lagos). When I say it is very hard not to be corrupt in that country, people look at me like I have two heads. The system is rigged to encourage corruption. Simple things need the greasing of hands to work.

Took me 8 months to squeeze my transcript out of Unilag. That was when I realised it’s also a Federal institution. Not that I didn’t know. But I suddenly became conscious of the fact that I was dealing with civil servants during that harrowing experience.

So no, I couldn’t renew the passport. I’ve decided to try to get it renewed in Lagos. I called a friend in Lagos and the prospects there don’t look too good either. Apparently it’s currently reaaaaally difficult even if you know an insider because “booklets are scarce”. Sigh…

No government has seriously tried to tackle the incompetence displayed in our immigration and foreign service. None.

Meanwhile, try to renew an American passport in
Paris. Book online. Openings no farther away than two weeks. Appear at the embassy. You are told passport will arrive in the mail after TWO weeks. Passport arrives after ONE week. If you have a real emergency, you can even get said passport the same day.

These people do not have two heads nau. Nigerians go to these countries and excel.

Why is it when we are left to our own devices we can’t seem to make even the simplest of things work like clockwork.

It can be so exhausting to be Nigerian…. I think the people at the embassy were a little amused by my exasperation. Abi dis one doesn’t know how things work ni? No, I didn’t shout. No energy. That 15 minute walk down Victor Hugo had already taken the fight out of me. I didn’t even bother letting them know how desperate I was. I’ve needed to apply for a Visa for the past two months to explore a business opportunity in another country but I can’t because my passport has almost expired…. I’ve resigned myself to trying when I visit Lagos soon.

Even letting myself out of the building was hard. One kind man saw me struggling with the door and stuck his hand into the broken lock to activate the mechanism that opens the door. Sigh…

If your name is Andrew? And you have the opportunity to check out? Please do.

– Abisoye Akinola