The Consul-General of Nigeria in New York, Amb. Lot Egopija has revealed that members of a team involved in racketeering of Nigerian passport based in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States has been apprehended.
Egopija, spoke when he received the Executive Members of Egbe Omo Yoruba of Greater New York in his office.
He said racketeering team which was working with personnel in New York were arrested as part of efforts to remove all encumbrances on accessing passports at the consulate.
Egopija said that he had been working to ensure smooth services for Nigerians and to remove corruption in the passport processes.
The consul-general advised Nigerians against giving incentives to anybody before accessing any services in the consulate.
“Sometimes, our people have not also done well. They tend to want to give incentives to staff and that is part of the problem but we’re covering that now.
“Only yesterday, when we started this new way of thinking (new approach to consular issues), we apprehended a racketeering team; this team is based in Baltimore (Maryland).
“Baltimore is not within our jurisdiction; they will do processing over there and they linked up with someone I term self-appointed Liaison who had his wings in the consulate.
“We have apprehended them and the staff that was compromised too and we have assured Nigerians that you don’t need to know anyone, they can obtain services without additional incentive,” he said.
The consul-general told his guests that the mission had been coping with an avalanche of Nigerians coming from other parts of the U.S, beyond the consulate’s jurisdiction for passport services.
Newsmen report that the Nigerian consulate in New York renders consular services to 20 states in the U.S.
They are: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Connecticut, Illinois, Rhode Island, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Winconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Minnesota.
Similarly, the consulate in Atlanta renders consular services to 20 states in the U.S. while the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington, DC caters to 10 states and the Washington, DC.
According to him, the mission in New York now renders consular services to Nigerians from Atlanta and Washington, DC jurisdictions.
“Their coming here puts additional pressure on us but we are not complaining.
“We see their coming as a testament that New York is working and because New York is working, the result for handwork is more work.’’
On issuance of passport, he said “some compatriots do not read their notices,” adding: “they come with documents that are not necessary and some don’t even come with documents at all.”
“We will continue to tell you to tell your members to renew their passports six months before expiration; they should not wait for the last minute to do so.
“Also, on customers’ services, we are responding to that positively and we want to assure you that our service delivery is now efficient.
“Part of the problems we are having is the COVID-19 restrictions. People are made to stay outside until we attend to those inside first.
“But we have got another floor that will be opened so as to accommodate more people.’’
Also speaking, Mr Alani Bello, Consul, Consular and Welfare, urged Nigerians in the U.S. to check the website of the consulate for vital information about its activities and services.
“We encourage our people to come directly to the consulate, not to go to third party; if you approach a third party for assistance, they charge you more.
“I want to assure you that we will continue to improve on our service delivery,’’ he said
Earlier, President of Egbe Omo Yoruba of Greater New York, Mr Adeyemi Oloruntoba, had talked about the challenges Nigerians were facing to get new passports and renew their travelling documents.
“We are Nigerians first as far as this place is concerned, the challenges that we are facing are not restricted to us being Yoruba but us as Nigerians.
“Our challenges are common and they are the same as Nigerians. Not too long, we had a virtual meeting with Nigeria house that was ably represented by Mr Bello.
“We were so happy that throughout that meeting, he was able to douse the concerns and agitations of some of the members that were on the platform.
“The key thing that came up in the meeting was about passport; the issuance and renewal of passport,’’ he said.
Oloruntoba appealed to the consulate to improve on its services to help Nigerians benefit from the Biden’s immigration policy.
“The administration is not ready to deport any immigrants but some of our people don’t have valid passports to benefit from this policy,’’ the official said.