- Consul-General, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen
In a statement, the Consul-General, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, dismissed the allegation as an attempt to tarnish the image of “hard-working officials’’ of the Consulate.
A copy of the statement, dated Oct. 12, was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York on Monday.
According to him, Thebez Global is the only company that handles Biometric Visa processing on behalf of the consulate at the VSF Centre located at 145 West 45 Street, New York.
Okoyen also dissociated the consulate from third-party service providers or unauthorized agents, who he suggested could be responsible for the additional charge.
He stated that any payment made by applicants to third parties should not be taken to mean it was made to the Consulate.
“The Consulate has adopted the highest standard and best practices obtainable in any other Consulate as it relates to E-passport and Visa production.
“Despite numerous challenges, including last-minute rush by applicants, no additional 200 dollars or any other fee is charged for same-day E-passport service.
“The procedure for timely issuance of passport and visa has been simplified and further streamlined, and well known to the public.
“We have also work hard to ensure that the Consulate in New York never runs short of E-passport booklets to avoid any disruption in our services,” he said.
The Consul General emphasized that the Consulate has fully keyed into the Federal Government’s anti-corruption agenda, and would not spare any official found wanting.
“Furthermore, the Consulate operates an open-door policy and encourages Nigerians to always report any misdemeanor on the part of any of its official to my office.
“My telephone numbers and email addresses are well publicised for this purpose.
“Besides, arrangements have been concluded to introduce a special Help-Desk with dedicated phone lines to contact officers in the Consulate on any issue for quick response without undue delay,”he added.
The Consul used the opportunity to remind applicants of the need to renew their passports not later than six months to expiration in line with standard practice.
He decried the attitude of some Nigerians “who usually book flight tickets far ahead of travel dates and then forget to apply for passport renewal until the last minute.
“Nigerians are encouraged to be more proactive and desist from putting undue pressure on officials of the Consulate who are sometimes harassed and assaulted for insisting on due process.
“I wish to reiterate the commitment of the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York to continued quality service delivery within its limited resources.
“This is our goal and we will not be deterred from our responsibility despite current challenges.
“We, therefore call on applicants to avoid third-party service providers or agents, as the Consulate does not recognise their services,” Okoyen stated.
He advised E-passport and visa applicants to start early through the official websites: “http://www.nigeriahouse.com”>www.nigeriahouse.com or “https://portal.immigration.gov.ng/passport/epassport”https://portal.immigration.gov.ng/passport/epassport.
According to him, starting early is important to avoid the last-minute rush that usually overstretches the manpower and facilities in the Consulate.