AFRICABUSINESS

How the Nigeria Foundation Houston blocked my right to obtain the Nigerian e-passport

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How the Nigeria Foundation Houston blocked my right to obtain the Nigerian e-passport.

By Michael Okwukogu Orji, Houston, Texas November 21, 2010.

Michael-Orji-usafrica-file-photo

The issue of how mercilessly, unfairly and unprofessionally Nigerians in any form of

minimal “power” or minimal “influence” treat other Nigerians has been and remains

in dramatic display, even as I write in Houston, Texas since the second week of

November 2010.

As a human rights activist who witnessed these incompetent methods, punishments

endured by women and little children, and insults to other Nigerians, I raised an

objection to suggest better ways forward; I respectfully complained, objected and

sought answers from Nigeria consular and Nigerian Foundation agents. Not

surprisingly I was treated worse than others in line.

I wanted answers and I went to the entrance door but to my greatest surprise I was

assaulted by one of the consulate agents. I was punched to the floor and later taken to

emergency room for medical treatment. Subsequently I was denied service; all my

documents, payments, passport and fees were returned and refunded to me and I was

asked not to return to the warehouse premises. I was beaten, shocked and in utter

disbelief that this Nigeria agents have authority to deny me my constitutional right to

renew my passport. Can this be true was my question? Can an artificial organization of

only 30-something individuals be allowed to give Nigeria’s consulate (for all their

hardwork at the scene) and Nigeria’s government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan a terrible

international human rights problem specifically denying those who raise objections to

illegal, immoral and punitive fees by a very incompetent, splintered group of Nigerians

in Houston called the Nigerian Foundation? On whose authority are they levying and

taxing Nigerians for passports?

The point must be made, too, that the methods of the Segun Jimmie Vaughn-led

Nigerian Foundation would have disenfranchised thoughtful Nigerians like Mbonu

Ojike, like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, Gani Fawehinmi, Wole

Soyinka, Olisa Agbakoba and many freedom and social activists who saw wrong and

wanted it right, who saw oppression and wanted freedom for many silent, voiceless,

countless, patient fellow Nigerians. The refusal to offer me consular service (paid in

full) will be an act of injustice and if allowed to prevail would set a dangerous

precedent in how the rights of citizens are abrogated. According to Dr. Martin Luther

King, Jr., Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere. Yesterday was me, today

my friend, tomorrow who knows?

Here are the facts for which I am an eyewitness, on several days I was at the scene.

1. THE PASSPORTS: The Nigeria consulate in Atlanta through its hand-picked,

commissioned and arbitrarily paid community organization in Houston called The

Nigerian Foundation, Inc. circulated information for obtaining the Nigerian/ECOWAS

new e-passport in Houston. Nigerians were instructed to come for the exercise from

November 12, 2010 to November 20, 2010.

2. TERRIBLE CHOICE OF VENUE: As of this eye witness report, the e-passport

exercise is uncompleted hence some folks have been advised to come on Wednesday

November 23, 2010, to the UGC Cargo shipping warehouse location owned by a key

member of the Nigerian Foundation who bagged the passports of Nigerians in the

back office of his warehouse. The venue was and remains the same ill-equipped

warehouse used for cargo shipment with no public restroom or dual exits (for any

emergency). The legal accommodation of the partitioned warehouse was 20 people

and you wonder how they can serve thousands of people every day. An elderly woman

of approximate age of seventy complained that they refused to allow her inside to use

the unisex restroom. Mazi Eni Kanu, a business, oil & gas company leader in Houston

and Nigeria witnessed and suffered firsthand the reckless disregard of the Nigerian

Foundation.

Another woman with 7 month old baby lamented the humiliation as she could not

endure the cry of the baby under the biting Houston sun, the pushing and shoving on

the line, the occasional yelling of the officers and leaders of the Nigerian Foundation

especially the unconscionable maltreatment of Nigerians. “What kind of country is this

that would subject its citizens to this?” She vented out as she balanced the crying baby

on her left hand.

3. FEES and PAYMENTS: Information was given for payment through the internet

and additional fees as money orders. The government/consulate of Nigeria has its own

charges aside from the high and arbitrary levies and punitive fees charged on a

government service by the Houston Nigerian Foundation, a community, non-profit

organization, and without issuing anyone any receipt for the monies collected by the

same Nigerian Foundation. Therefore, technically, may not be reported as revenue to

the IRS. We will be watching and monitoring the Segun Jimmie Vaughn led splinter

group of Nigerian Foundation, especially on this issue of funds.

On the payments, first, there is a sixty five US dollars ($65) processing fee, second,

thirty dollars ($30.00) for the Houston Nigeria Foundation’s own fee and thirdly,

twenty dollars ($20.00) consulate fee, $10 for money order fee charged by the

Foundation if you bought those from them (typical fair market charge $1) and yet,

worse, the Nigerian Foundation Information, a group with less than 30 active, dues-

paying membership, whip Nigerians with an oppressive $10 for reprint of a single

sheet of paper capturing the e-passport receipt from the Nigerian Immigration

services. This same Nigerian Foundation charge Nigerians $25 for the standard

express mail in stamp which is sold by the U.S Post office to everyone for only $18.30.

Once inside the Cargo warehouse, after spending several hours outside and paying

these aforementioned exorbitant illegal fees, for those lucky to complete their process,

they were given a small thumbnail – size number slip (not a receipt or acknowledgment

letter) and told to come back another day for simple finger printing.

ADDITIONAL ISSUES AND CONCERNS OF NIGERIANS AT THE E-PASSPORT

LOCATION:

4. Why should applicants have to pay $50 for non-Nigeria government approved fees?

After paying the official fee and obtaining all invoices and data, your application

should be processed with no hassle, but that was not to be with the Nigerian

Foundation and its private fronts for making and squeezing monies from fellow

Nigerians.

5. Why did Mr. Vaughn and the board of the Foundation lead the Nigerian consulate

into choosing such a mediocre and non-equipped and inhospitable location for such a

civic exercise involving women and children? Everyone who has come through the

place will tell you there was no proper accommodation for applicants who trooped in

hundreds, many with children, under harsh sun and cold exposure. As a cargo

shipping warehouse, it did not have proper sitting accommodations nor was alternative

arrangements made by the consulate or Nigerian Foundation, Inc. for the anticipated

applicants. Also the facility did not have sitting and weather arrangements outside the

warehouse. It was unbearably frustrating, clearly chaotic even as Nigerians were

patient with the poor managers at the Nigerian Foundation who had an opportunity to

show performance but were entering information with long hand and pens in this day

and age. Younger Nigerians were shocked at the lack of technology-awareness and lack

of usage by the Segun Vaughn Nigerian Foundation.

6. Understandably, there was frustration when people were forced to stand outside on

line for more than 5 hours minimally and often one had to come back twice or more

(on different days) before completing the process. People stood in line patiently under

the Houston heat, while excited or anguished applicants complained and were rained

with abuses from the president and representatives from the Nigerian Foundation Inc,

who crudely did not understand the mass suffering of fellow Nigerians under the

Texas unpredictable weather.

I think and found out, like many Nigerians, that the process was very unfriendly,

unprofessional, ineffective and ill conceived to render quality reliable service to law

abiding and industrious Nigerians. This charade could have been done in a better

humane environment instead of keeping people outside under Texas sun with no

sitting chairs, no preferential treatment for those with little children, no reliable

information, and charging ridiculous fee. What a bungled exercise!

7. A small due diligence would have shown, as I was informed by a board member of

Segun Vaughn-led Nigerian Foundation which could not organize the Houston 50th

Independence anniversary of Nigeria effectively with less than 50 guests, plus the fact

it owes the vendors/suppliers who worked for the event had no business being placed

in a driver’s seat to embarrass Nigerians and Nigeria. Could this be a conflict of

interests? What prevented the consulate from renting a hall or hotel with chairs, tables

and restroom facilities?

8. I complained because I believe in justice, fairness and equity. I complained because I

did not like how they made fellow citizens suffer unnecessarily especially, the children,

senior citizens and women. I complained because the fees were uncalled for;

exorbitant, illegal, immoral and rip-off.

I make this report for the purpose of explaining the injustice melted to our fellow

Nigerians in Abuja, in Houston or anywhere is unacceptable. We cannot be too

powerless, voiceless, and too patient or simply being “too bold” to complain. It’s my

hope and desire that we as people and especially Nigerians wake up to demand better

service, humane treatment from our government and leaders and perhaps get answers

to why they maltreat us. Like me, you may be a victim who may be punched and

denied passport because we are courageous and principled enough to say we deserve

better!!

The aim of every government is to protect and provide sovereign services to its

citizens. Every citizen expects nothing less, and when a government either through its

agencies, agents or liaisons fails in fulfilling its constitutional obligations, its citizens

have it as their constitutional right to ask questions. Even with all of its great purposes,

the Nigerian consulate was failed in many ways by the Segun Vaughn-led Nigerian

Foundation of Houston.

The Human Rights and Freedom Congress of Africa (HRFCA) demands that all

Nigerians be treated fairly and respectfully and be saved from the high and arbitrary

levies and punitive fees charged on a government service by the Houston Nigerian

Foundation, a community, non-profit organization, whose leaders collect monies

without issuing anyone any receipt for the monies collected by them. Therefore,

technically, may not be reported as revenue to the IRS. We will be watching and

monitoring the Segun Jimmie Vaughn led group.

•Orji, a networking Engineer, is the Executive Director of the Human Rights and Freedom Congress of Africa (HRFCA). e-mail: justice@hrfca.org

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3 Comments

  1. Shame Shame Shame. Nigerians in a non-Nigerian environment are still unable to act right and are dishonest. Its in the genes. Oh Lord deliver us.

  2. I turned all my paper work in with all the monies, was told that I will be contacted in March for picture and finger print. I haven't heard anything from the Nigerian Foundation people. It's May and I'm worried that my original passport will be lost forever. I don't know who to contact about this matter. If anybody knows please let the rest of us know

    1. I am in the same exact situation, and as a student, my papers are often called upon. I have called all the consulates and nobody answers. Everything mentioned in the article is true. This is very frustrating and embarrassing. And then they wonder why we are labelled they way we are. INCOMPETENT, ILLITERATE bunch of people.

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