Strange story from passport office: Your payment has expired
Sometimes in 2020, I was at the Ikoyi Passport Office to renew my passport. It was a pleasurable experience because there was an elders’ ‘lounge’ where the son of man was treated courteously and ‘fast-fast’. There were some not so old people there but that is Nigeria for you. On Monday, 4/10/21, I had to go back to the same office for the same renewal. Again, it did not take much time but I was (and am still) shocked by what I was told: that my payment, which was duly received and confirmed, had expired! Expired? How come?
Anyway, let us begin from the beginning. I had gone to renew my passport at the FESTAC Passport Office and for whatever reason; I was referred to the Ikoyi office. I got to Ikoyi, received an express treatment and left. Everything however went awry when I wanted to pick up the passport. I was informed that there was a mistake in my DOB (Death of Birth) as stated in my NIN and that I had to rectify it with NIMC. I went to the place where I was ‘captured’ (the second capturing) and I was told that I must do it at Lagos State Secretariat Alausa. It was at the height of the Coro-invasion and I did not wish to knowingly risk my life, especially after seeing the uncoordinated crowd at Alausa NIMC office. I later spoke to a NIN official in Anambra State and he referred me to another staff, who then gave me two bills: an official bill (N15000) and another bill to fast-track the process. The second was much more than the first. I left it at that. I eventually went to NIMC Alausa with one of my adult students, a top-notch bureaucrat with the Lagos State Government, and we had easy access to the NIMC office.
Incidentally, when I got to the point of ‘capture’ (the third time) the officer in charge happened to be my ‘sister’, whose hometown is about 5 minutes drive from mine. I was also requested to pay the official fee but no fast-tracking fee was demanded. I then asked why people must pay heavily for the change of DOB. I was informed that it was because of the machinations of evil servants who were (and are) always changing their DOBs so as manipulate their retirement schedules. In fact, I gathered that it was easier to change my name than to change my DOB! I asked why I had to be captured again rather than taking the particulars (Birth Certificate, Baptismal Card, Driver’s license, and my previous passport, which all bore the same date). I was told that it was (and still is) the process and that it had to be completed at NIMC HQ, Abuja. I was ‘captured’ again and assured that it was all over.
So, how could my payment for passport renewal, which was duly received, have expired when my passport had not been renewed?
However, when I wanted to activate my pension status with NUPEMCO (ASSU-owned and approved Pension Fund Administrator), I was informed that they had an issue with the same DOB. I called my sister at NIMC, who assured me that the DOB matter had been settled for good. On 23/9/21, the NIMC itself sent me a message that my ‘application for DOB correction has been affected’. I called the passport office and I was told that I had to be recaptured. I had expected that they would just input the correct DOB and let me be. So, I had to undergo the stress of travelling from Ago-Iwoye to the passport office. I do not know why they are all fond of this continuous capturing and recapturing! Anyway, I obtained permission from my Oga at the top and came into Lagos over the weekend so as to have a stress-free and seamless trip to the Passport office on Monday, 4/10/21.
Since I left Lagos 17 years ago, I had become increasingly reluctant to drive within that chaotic city, where the only qualification for driving is to have a good dose of madness. This is because, every other driver is mad, and thus, it is good to also be mad so as to engage meaningfully with other mad drivers. For instance, in Lagos, the only way to ascertain who is right on the road is to engage in a shouting contest and whoever shouts highest and ‘baddest’, wins the day. So, I decided to use public transport. At Cele bus stop, there was no vehicle going to CMS, which is the traffic hub for Lagos Island. The queue of awaiting CMS passengers was up to 100 meters (at least there was some order). I waited, looked at my watch, remembered that the appointment was for 10 am, tried other options, and decided to board a ‘two-wheeled vehicle’ to Lawanson, a bus stop nearer to CMS. When I got there, there was just one seat left in the bus on the ground. I could have captured that last sit but it meant upstaging one elderly woman who arrived there at same time with me. So, I left the vacant seat for her and waited for the next bus. Again, there was no bus and unlike the previous bus stop, the passengers here were disorderly and I was not in the mood to join in the mad rush that would surely ensue when the bus eventually arrived. I decided to take a taxi and that was that. However, it was ‘traffic squared’ along the road and the only reason I got to Ikoyi Passport Office that day was because the driver knew all the apian ways around town.
So, I got there, got to the capturing point in good enough time (it was so fast that I did not even have the opportunity to open the seminar paper I had taken there to keep me busy) and that was where my ‘troublem’ started. The pleasant young man had already commenced the process when he looked at the file and said flatly: ‘your payment had expired’. Expired? What does that mean? He said that it meant that it had expired because it was so written. In effect, what is written is written (John, 19:22) and that I had to make another payment. This is broad-day thievery!
Somebody paid for passport renewal; the passport has not been and you boldly tell him that the payment, which you duly received had expired. And the only reason is that it is the policy. If you paid rent and received the keys but fail to occupy, the payment expires at the end of the period. If you paid for a bus for a given trip and the sit was reserved for you and you fail to arrive and ‘occupy’, then your payment has expired. If you paid your rent but the landlord did not hand over the keys or did not affect the pre-occupation repairs, or if you bought a ticket but the bus failed to make the trip for whatever reason, then, the payment is still valid. So, how could my payment for passport renewal, which was duly received, have expired when my passport had not been renewed? And it is not as if a date was allotted specifically for me and all the staff and equipment was scheduled for me and I failed to appear?
I am still consulting on the next line of action. To sue, to ‘Occupy’ the Passport office (one-man riot), to abandon the passport in protest, or to go spiritual (cast and bind, invoke the Holy-Ghost fire, or go on 40 days dry fasting). This may even give me the opportunity to ‘break the internet; which I have been dreaming of for a long while. Many options are being considered if I do not receive reasonable feedback before long. One-man protest, 50% or 100% naked ( that is how they ‘break’ the internet!); camping with my family with matrasses and cooking utensils at the Ikoyi Passport Office gate( Ikemba Ojukwu did so at the same Ikoyi years ago), invoking bees and swaps on the office and its officials for 40 days, 40 days non-stop rain in the compound only ( a fate worse than Noah’s) or importing the fearful ojunkutanaya the majestic Ajofia or the charismatic Odojili masquerade, all from Igbo-Ukwu or assembling the three of them simultaneously at the passport office. The essence is to break the internet and achieve the desired result: the renewal of my passport. I am still thinking and strategizing but those who love the Ikoyi Passport Office and its ‘citizens’ should persuade them to act soon, so as to avoid all these non-palatable options.