Blog, Newspaper Column

A Leap And A Stall – The Nigerian High Commission, London Experience (1)

The thought of visiting the Nigerian Embassy or High Commission in any part of the world is always fraught with anxiety and worries. It is not only me but for all Nigerians in the diaspora. For those who have yet to have the misfortune of a personal experience at any of the embassies or high commissions, the reviews on the internet are enough to give them high blood pressure. A visit, be it in London, Beirut, Atlanta or Baku in Azerbaijan, the stories are the same.


No matter how much you try to avoid visiting, at times you have no other option. Frankly, it is not every time you have cause to go there unless you are a nutter that needs special attention. Most Nigerians only interact with their embassies and high commissions when their passports are up for renewal or get emergency travel certificates. It is not that the officials at the high commissions think highly of their compatriots too. They scarcely have activities that will draw citizens to them. As a result, the officials live in a world of their own and the citizens they are supposed to serve let them be. Their paths do not meet. When they meet, they are not pleasant stories.


I needed to renew my Nigerian passport. Four months earlier, I had paid and booked an interview appointment at the High Commission office in London. It was not a trip I looked forward to, as I had a terrible experience at the high commission a few years back. To avoid the replay of my experience, I was at the door by 8 am for a 9.30 appointment. The queue was not as bad as I had it on my last visit. There was an ‘unofficial’ staff ‘helping’ applicants in the queue check their documents before approaching the main door. I was unsure if he was a tout or a genuine helper. He directed the unfortunate applicants who brought incomplete documents to where they could print at high costs.


I came prepared. He was, therefore, of no use to me. The staff at the door handed me a number with a stern warning not to forget to drop my phone in one of the lockers. It was new to me, so I queried it. The guy said it became necessary as ‘jakpa‘ bloggers and vloggers turned the high commission to their studios recently. I complied with the order and ‘locked’ my phone in the locker. I sat down and waited for my number to be called and displayed on the screen.


The waiting room was busy but not as crowded as my last visit. There was orderliness. The officials processed the queue faster than they did before. It did not take long before I was attended to and told to go upstairs and wait to be called for the next step – biometrics. Not a lot had changed in the waiting room upstairs. The chairs are arranged awkwardly. You have to squeeze through if you are lucky to spot an empty seat.


This was compensated for by the short time applicants spent here. It was a breeze. I got called into the ‘action’ room for the biometrics and signature. The space was inadequate as applicants bounced into each other. I did not mind, and others did not seem to too. Within 90 minutes of arriving at the high commission, I was handed my confirmation slip. Quite a different experience from my last visit, when I had to spend the whole day in the high commission.


This called for celebration, I said to myself. I walked out of the building, my head raised so high, proud of my motherland. I took a few ‘selfies’ outside the high commission with the Nigerian flag fluttering in the background. I was a very proud Nigerian. I said to myself, I must celebrate this on social media. I must share my pictures with the green-white-green flag in the background.


Travelling back home was so satisfying. I had gone to the venue with little belief in the system. I was comprehensively disappointed by how efficiently the system worked and I felt guilty. I made a note for myself that I should start trusting the Nigerian system. I allowed myself a little sermon of individual reborn. Nigeria will not change if the thoughts of the citizens do not change. The preacher I was.


Back at my base, I could not stop talking about the newborn Nigerian High Commission, London. Honestly, I still had reservations about when my passport would come through. I envisaged three or four months just like the wait for an appointment. But I allowed the small change at the interview to overwhelm me, and willing to wait for the passport. Not that I planned to travel to Nigeria soon.


March 22, 2024: 11:15am. A knock on the door. It was the postman. In his hand was my Special Delivery envelope. I thought to myself, no, this is not true. The passport was here.

11:16 am: I threw the envelope on the sofa. This calls for celebration. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of black coffee. I sat comfortably and sipped my coffee as I opened the prepaid envelope.


All set. I sighted the brand new, redesigned passport. Wow! The smell mingled with my coffee and I let it travel through my head. Unbelievable! 


I held and admired the new passport for a while. I flipped to the information page. The picture did not look like me. I did a double-take. I questioned myself. Had the smell of the new passport mixed with the coffee affected my sight? The picture in the passport was not me. I went to the nearest mirror to confirm my face had not changed. The reality: I had been sent the wrong passport.


Nigeria had happened to me. Very sad. Not only me but also the unfortunate guy whose passport was sent to me. What went wrong? How could they mix them up like this? My prepaid envelope clearly stated my name and address. Did the packer not check the passport against the name on the envelope?


I was deflated. The efforts of the Nigerian Immigration Service to make the passport available as soon as possible were defeated. Defeated by a useless and incompetent packer in the postroom. I thought, what if the useless packer was the one who scanned the photographs into the booklet? He would have scanned Emeka’s photo against Morak’s details and produced a useless passport. The packer probably sent my passport to an address in Belfast or Aberdeen. Another Nigerian is somewhere fuming and wondering what is wrong with our motherland. Why can we not always have systems that work seamlessly?


This is the problem with the country. But I processed this again. It is not all about the government or the big cats. It is also about the small fries who could not be bothered to work thoroughly. I hope one day, very soon, I will get my passport back. For now, it is a game of wait. I have called all the contact numbers associated with the high commission but unable to get through. I have left messages on the WhatsApp number publicly listed but all were left unread. There has been no reply to email messages sent to the address listed on the website.


In all, I praise the efforts of the Nigerian High Commission, London staff. They have improved their ‘game,’ and I hope they keep at it. However, for the impact of the ‘new’ system and efficiency to be felt, they have to identify the postroom guy. He needs to be handed a P45 (just joking). He has to stop embarrassing them and the great country of Nigeria.


I am waiting for a resolution. I will keep you all posted on developments as they unfold.






I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.