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Nigerian embassies in China, UK, USA, others don’t reply citizens’ email enquiries

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FINDINGS by The ICIR have shown that most of Nigeria’s diplomatic missions and embassies abroad have a poor culture of responding to enquiries via their online email addresses as most have inactive email addresses.

The ICIR sent a total of 66 enquiry emails to 46 Nigerian diplomatic missions and embassies located in the United States, US, Germany, China, amongst other countries.

To determine how they respond to the concerns of Nigerian citizens residing in those countries via their official online mailing addresses.

Posing as a resident seeking to renew his Nigerian passport due for expiration on July 25, the reporter in the email asked for a breakdown of the costs involved and the duration for the process.

“I am writing to know how long it would take to have my International passport renewed. The passport expires on July 25, 2020.  I also would like to know the costs involved in getting a new passport,” the email read.

Based on information available on the websites of several Nigerian embassies, the duration for  International passport renewal takes between two weeks and one month.

For 11 Nigerian consulates, it took at least 18 hours to reply

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Eleven of the forty-six Nigerian embassies and high commissions sent a reply to the request of passport renewal which accounts for 20 per cent of the High Commission and embassies that received the enquiry.

The first set of emails was sent on July 6 at 4:43 pm, to Nigerian diplomatic missions in 19 countries of which the consular section of the Nigerian High Commission in Canberra, Australia was the first to respond at 5:06 am after 12 hours and 23 minutes.

“Please find attached the passport renewal process. Please note that you will need to reply to this email with a copy of your payment receipt in order to obtain an appointment for capture. For a standard passport renewal, the cost is usually $106.

“Please also reply to this email with where you will be travelling from in order to attend your passport appointment,” the reply read.

A document was also attached to the email detailing the steps on how to apply for e-passport renewal and book an appointment at the consulate. 

The Nigerian embassy in Sweden and the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana were the only missions that acknowledged the emails were received via an automatic message.

The Nigerian embassy in Sweden responded in an email on July 7, at 10:46 am which was after 18 hours and  3 minutes, directing the reporter to fill the online form and make payments on a website listed as www.innovate1services.com to complete the process.

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Its counterpart in Austria, Vienna which replied after 17 hours and 22 minutes, asking the reporter to fill the online form and submit it in person.

Two days, 23 hours and 47 minutes was the time it took the Nigerian embassy in Lisbon, Portugal to reply from one of its three email addresses the request was sent to. 

Directing the reporter to take a letter of introduction to the Nigerian embassy in Madrid, Spain as its operations in Lisbon does not involve passport renewal.

On July 7 at 12:46 pm, the enquiry was sent to email addresses in twenty-seven countries where Nigerian embassies and diplomatic missions are domiciled, amongst the first to respond include Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Ghana, Brazil and United Arab Emirate, UAE.

However, the Nigerian consulate in Accra, Ghana replied after 1 day, 2 hours and 52 minutes, and Kampala, Uganda sent a reply after 19 hours, 26 minutes.

The shortest time it took a Nigerian foreign mission to reply to the enquiry via email was 49 minutes by the Nigerian embassy in Lome, Togo, followed by the embassy in Dakar, Senegal which sent in a reply after 2 hours 20 minutes, that they had run out of passport booklets and would let the reporter know when it arrives.

At the time of filing the report, the Nigerian embassy in Senegal never replied.

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The Nigerian embassy in Brazil replied after  2 hours and 38 minutes at 6:24 pm of the same day, using the email address [email protected] which revealed that the consulate was closed due to COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 7 at 1:06 am, Yvonne Maha, a representative of the embassy in Brazil also sent in a response from the address [email protected], informing the reporter the embassy was closed after 9 hours 21 minutes

The most concise response came from the Nigerian embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE, at 9:12 am on July 8 after 17 hours 27 minutes, detailing the collection procedure and cost for passport renewal stating the process would take a month which would involve image acquisition and biometrics at the embassy.

The time of record shows it takes averagely 18 hours before a Nigerian diplomatic consulate abroad can reply an online enquiry based on The ICIR analysis. However, this delay may rob Nigerian citizens of valuable time as they seek to sort out issues with regards to their passport renewal.

“Outdated Information” on Nigerian (China, Australia ) embassy’s websites

When The ICIR examined some of the websites of Nigerian embassies abroad, some of the websites contained outdated information that did not reflect current realities.

According to the homepage of the website of the Nigerian embassy in China, the Minister of foreign affairs is Aminu Wali, who left office in 2015 his picture is still displayed on the website.

He has since been replaced since 2015 by Geoffrey Onyeama who is the current Minister of foreign affairs but the change of guard is yet to take place on the website.

Though the homepage had recent information from the publicity department dated 13th, July 2020, advising visitors on the time the embassy opens and closes, other information posted on the website dates between 2014 to 2017.

Also the picture of former President, Goodluck Jonathan is still a prominent feature on the website despite leaving office in 2015. On some of its subpages, it shows the information contained was last updated in 2015.

The Nigeria High Commission in Australia also shared a video of former President Goodluck Jonathan on the sidebar on its homepage, while the announcement for public holidays calling for Eid-Ul-Maulud celebration posted in 2017 sits comfortably on the website. 

“The High Commission will reopen for normal business on Monday, 4th December 2017 at 9.00 am,” a section of the post reads.

35 inactive emails, 4 consulates without websites

Fifty-three per cent of the emails sent to 66 addresses accounting for 35 email addresses as announced by the mail delivery subsystem were “inactive”.

“Address not found your message wasn’t delivered to [email protected] because the domain [email protected] couldn’t be found,” the email received from the Nigeria High Commission, NHC, in the United Kingdom, UK, read.

The only email address belonging to the NHC listed on its website for immigration purposes in the UK returned as “Not found”. 

However, the Nigerian High Commission in the UK does not have an official email address on its website to direct enquiries but a contact form requesting visitors to the website to fill the form for their enquiries.

This was a familiar message reply as 27 other enquiry emails sent were hauled back, stating their intended addresses could not be reached.

Six emails belonging to the embassies in China, India and Philippines returned as “delivery incomplete” while six Nigerian embassies in Turkey, Belgium, Japan, France and Russia failed to provide a reply to the enquiry.

 

Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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