Visa Applicants: Allege Extortion, Highhandedness at Turkish Embassy

Chinedu Eze

For many years the embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Lagos has been collecting visa fees in dollars instead of in naira, which negates Nigeria’s policy on foreign currency usage in the country.

Further investigation shows that the Turkish visa fees compared to visa fees of other embassies, including the European embassies in Nigeria, are outrageously high.

THISDAY, which visited the embassy, learnt that until recently the embassy was charging $300 for visa fees but the actual visa fee is $60. Invariably, the rest of the money goes to the agency that processes the visa application, known as Voya. After processing, Voya sends the applicant’s processed passport to the Turkish main embassy in Abuja.

But last week, in response to the federal government’s request that embassies should stop collecting dollars for visa fees or any other payments in Nigeria, the embassy announced to visa applicants that the new visa fee was now was N827, 000.

One of the applicants, who introduced himself as shade Aliyu, told THISDAY that there was indication that they were arbitrarily fixing the visa price. He said obviously it was above the real visa fee and what they did was just to pad the fee to jack it up to N827, 000.

“As a regular traveller to Turkey, because I am into merchandise, I just noticed that visa fees at the embassy are increased arbitrarily. From my findings, Turkish ambassy has not increased its visa for a long time but between 2022 and 2023 the agency, Voya, has increased visa fee from $250 to $300 and it is the same $60 that the embassy still collects,” Aliyu said.

Another applicant who spoke to THISDAY, whose name is Franklin Ihejirika, said that any time one comes to the embassy new rules are introduced, which do not reflect on the embassy’s website.

 “The first time I went to the embassy I had gone to the Turkish embassy website that read the requirements for visa and I printed it out, but when I came to the embassy at Victoria Island, Lagos, I was given new conditions. They told me that they cannot accept dollars printed in certain years, except the newer ones. They told me that if the dollar was folded they would not collect it and if there is any external mark, even if it is a tiny dot, almost invisible dot, they won’t take it.

“What I experienced is that the Nigerians who work there purposely keep visa applicants in the dark about many things; so, when you come they will reject your dollars so you will be forced to buy dollars from them at outrageous exchange rate. They have another rule about your local government, which is not contained in the website. So, when you come they tell you that you must have the document written in particular way and because you cannot obtain it elsewhere, you resort to getting it from the agents who stay around the embassy. So, they use the embassy to extort Nigerians in a way that you cannot help it, if really you desire to obtain visa from them,” the applicant said.

When THISDAY visited the embassy in Lagos, the security official said that anyone who was not coming for visa would not have access to the embassy and there was no one that was allowed to talk on behalf of the embassy.

THISDAY visited those offering different businesses around the embassy, some hid their business in vans; but now that Nigerian has banned the payment of visa fee in dollars, those who offered foreign exchange have become irregular but one of them told THISDAY in confidence that they would be back.

“We shall come back. I am sure this embassy will not collect naira for a long time, especially with the way naira is fluctuating. Very soon they will reverse to the old system. Many years they have collected dollars even when government people come here they pay in dollars. Some of them will complain but they will pay in dollars. We are just waiting. They have to go back to dollars because if you call the naira equivalent as the cost of the visa it will seem too much,” he told THISDAY.

Early in May, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) read its riot act to foreign missions based in Nigeria, banning them from transacting in foreign currencies, and mandating the use of Naira in their financial businesses.

The EFCC also mandated Nigerian foreign missions domiciled abroad to accept Naira in their financial businesses. The move, the EFCC noted, was to tackle the dollarisation of the Nigerian economy and the degradation of the Naira

The anti-graft commission, in an advisory to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, titled: “EFCC Advisory to Foreign Missions against Invoicing in US Dollar,” expressed reservations and displeasure regarding the unhealthy practice by some foreign missions to invoice consular services to Nigerians and other foreign nationals in the country in United States dollars.

Another applicant who gave his name as Tunji, told THISDAY that what he has observed at Turkish embassy in Lagos was that everything was designed to make money from applicants and the embassy is visibly run by Nigerians.

According to him, the embassy officials are very fastidious about your documents; so, they easily reject your documents and quickly tell you where you can obtain another one and the provide most of the services.

“If they tell you that your hotel booking is not correct that you have to get another one. As you are thinking how you can go and get another one, the official will remind you that the business centre behind the office can book hotel for you. If they reject your passport photograph, somebody at the business centre will take you a sharp one and their prices are very high. You may not know that you need local government of origin identification certificate because it is not in the requirement you will read in their website. When you become exasperated, somebody outside the office will help you procure it for you at exorbitant price. That is the way they role.

“Now, they even require letter of self-introduction for some applicants. My thinking is that the Nigerian system allows them to be exploiting Nigerians. Compared to other embassies, you feel you are being financially sapped at the Turkish embassy. I don’t know whether they could be called to order or it is part of the autonomy and diplomacy freedom they enjoy,” the applicant told THISDAY.

However, a senior Immigration official told THISDAY that matters relating to embassy are under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but if such complaints are brought to Immigration, the agency would investigate it.

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