WHEN it comes to corruption, Nigeria has long languished near the bottom of the international league table. A League Table ranks items – those at the the top of the table are best/good and those at the bottom the worst/bad. Hence, a League Table ranking Corruption means those at the top are more corrupt than those at the bottom. Nigeria is ranked 148 according to the latest corruption perception index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI). In this report by Per Second News, Stella Igwe-Adesoga, shows vulnerabilities in the handling of incoming government funds by officials who allegedly divert millions for personal use.
Per Second News
In Washington, DC, investigations show that pilfering eats away between 20 and 30 per cent of the proceeds from the Embassy of Nigeria, with officials accused of using funds intended for the federal government to enrich themselves in a scheme that is expected to ensnare more diplomats across the nation’s overseas consulates in what investigators are calling the most serious corruption case involving the Nigerian embassy in decades.
Visa, passport processing and expedite fees are diverted by greed and desire to survive and get ahead in a broken system, according to findings and confessions by former workers.
Scathing documents obtained by this newspaper exposes a disturbing criminal collaboration that was ongoing for years between high-ranking officials of the embassy, consular officers and immigration personal at the embassy. The pilfered funds deprived staff and hard working men and women of critical workforce and professional development opportunities and calls into question the integrity of officials from the ministry of foreign affairs during the course of this criminal conspiracy.
The Embassy processes passport applications, issues appropriate visas, and renders consular services daily to Nigerians and non-Nigerians in 50 states in the U.S. The fees for processing passports, as stated on the Embassy’s website, are as follow:
Ages 0 -17 yrs ($77) – N27,720
Ages 18Yrs-59Yrs ($106) – N38, 160
Ages 60Yrs and Above ($77) – N27,720
Instead of collecting only any of the above categorized payments, the Embassy charges additional $30 processing fee and $85 expedite fee per applicant. These fees (processing and expedite fees) are never documented nor remitted to the Federal Government, including those of the daily high revenues generated from consular services, according to findings.
These monies are collected and deposited into the bank but are soon withdrawn through issuing of checks to those intended senior officials, in particular, according to findings corroborated by former officials.
” To cover the trace, fictitiously written applications, claiming refunds, purchases, traveling allowances and estacodes, etc, which were never incurred nor embarked upon are submitted, said a source at the embassy.
” Payment vouchers are raised on the fictitious claims, thereby making it intricate for external auditors to detect.”
Further investigation shows that the Embassy of Nigeria charges $350 for each lost passport fee (in addition to collecting passport application fee in the amount listed above). Again, these fees are never documented nor remitted to the Federal Government.
These lost passport fees are fact, and can be verified from the Embassy’s website.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government isn’t aware of such fees or remittance, said an embassy Source.
Per Second News gathered that Embassy officials, particularly those in the Passport Office, periodically, visit other States in the U.S. with mobile machines to process passport applications for Nigerians. Aside from collecting the required amount to process passport for each age category, as listed above, the Embassy collects processing fee of $100 per applicant.
The mobile ‘Passport Intervention Exercise’ usually caters for an average of 700 applicants at each visit with $100 processing fee allegedly going to the pockets of officials.
” These fees are never documented nor remitted to the Federal Government, an employee who have embarked on the exercise to Phoenix, Arizona, said under the condition of anonymity. He alleged that the same practice exists in most Nigerian missions abroad.