By Chinedu Eze
Many Nigerians are claiming the citizenship of other countries in West Africa in order to obtain passports from those countries and travel overseas, THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY gathered that Nigerians who engage in this act, include those whose passports have been seized by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), those who are arranged by agents to travel overseas for cheap labour and prostitution, as well as those who seek for asylum from some countries in Europe, the US and Canada.
Senior Nigerian Immigration officials in Abuja explained to THISDAY that according to the law, even though NIS seizes the passports of Nigerians deported to the country for a minimum of two years, such people are never allowed to travel again.
According to him, in order for them to travel, they obtain passports from countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, Mozambique and others, adding that most of the time these passports are “oluwole”, which means that they are fake.
The Immigration official also told THISDAY that there is syndicate of agents who recruit young Nigerians and send them to various countries as maids, for prostitution or engagement in other cheap labour.
He said with passports from other West African countries they are given easy access to Europe, Middle East, Asia, the US and Canada and the immigration of the countries of their destination subject them to less scrutiny compared to those who travel with Nigeria’s green passport.
The official also explained to THISDAY that those seeking for asylum find it easy with the passport of other countries in West Africa than with Nigerian passport, “although with crisis in many parts of Nigeria and emasculation of freedom of some groups, Canada and other countries are now granting asylum to Nigerians who come from crisis ridden areas like Plateau, Borno, Zamfara, Benue, Taraba States and members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).”
THISDAY spoke to another senior Immigration official in Lagos who confirmed that many countries in the world are stringent in processing the documents of travellers with Nigerian passports.
“Those who are doing this believe that if you are holding a Nigerian passport, it may be difficult for you to access some countries, especially North African and Middle East countries. They have this belief that if you are holding a Senegalese or Mozambique passport, for instance, it may be easier for you to penetrate United Arab Emirates (UAE) than a Nigerian passport because they seem to have sympathy for them. The way you will be subjected to if you are holding a Nigerian passport would be different from the way you will be subjected to if you are holding Liberian or Nigerien passports.
“Again, they believe that Nigerian passport attracts more attention than most of these other small countries,” he said.
The Immigration official further explained that some deported Nigerians whose passports are seized on arrival by Immigration claim to have lost their passports and obtain police report and court affidavit to back their claim as they request for new passport, which they succeed in obtaining.