By Cecilia Ologunagba
The Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Amb. Lot Egopija has called on all Nigerians in the U.S. to come out en masse and participate in the activities scheduled for the celebration of the county’s 63rd independence anniversary.
Egopija made the call at the virtual 10th Town Hall Meeting with the Nigerian Community within New York Jurisdiction.
The Consulate General of Nigeria in New York is slated to hold the Nigeria Independence Day Parade Culture and Festival in collaboration with the Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians on Oct 7.
It will also host the Flag Raising Ceremony to commemorate Nigeria’s 63rd independence anniversary on Oct. 2 at Bowling Green in collaboration with the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO).
The cosul general called on Nigerians to come out in their numbers and showcase their rich and diverse cultures.
“I encourage all Nigerians to participate in the forthcoming Independence Day celebration activities, either in New York or any state in the U.S.
“Let us come out and let us be culturally dressed for this occasion; let us tell the people, we are heterogenous, and we are one.
“We call on all the community associations to showcase their culture. This time, we want full participation of all. Please, come out and do Nigeria proud,’’ he said.
The envoy also called for sponsorship for the events, saying, “we need sponsorship. Anyone that can get us sponsors, we will appreciate that,’’
Updating the nationals on passports services, he said that the consulate would soon clear applications for passport for July as it is working on those that did their biometrics on July 24.
He assured the nationals that the consulate would continue to do its best to reduce the waiting period of six weeks for collection.
Egopija explained that the consulate has been going to Washington D.C. to produce the passports, a situation that has made the collection period longer.
“We are trying to see how we can get passport printing machine in New York.
“We have applied and we are hoping that when we get it, it will be a lot easier and faster to process passports,” he said.
According to him, with even with the arrangement of going to Washington D.C., the consulate is still able to meet up with the stipulated time of six weeks for the collection of passports.
“We will continue to talk with our principals in Nigeria to see the need for a passport production machine in New York and another one in Atlanta for those in the Atlanta region.’’
The Immigration Attache 1, Mrs Mosunmola Onilede, who briefed the nationals on behalf of the Consul General explained some of the reasons for the delay in collection of passports within the stipulated time.
Onilede identified delay in getting the National Identification Number (NIN), which is mandatory for the issuance of the passports, as one of the reasons.
She cautioned nationals against switching names during NIN registration, noting that if the arrangement of the names is not the same, it could lead to failure of NIN registration.
“We advise applicants that when they want to register for NIN, they should always go with the names they have in their old passports and arrange their names the way it is on the Nigerian passport.’’
The official also cited change of data as another reason that might lead to delay in passport collection, especially total change of first name, middle and last names.
“It looks suspicious when an applicant wants to do total change of names, they peg those application whenever we send it to Nigeria, which might result to waiting for months.
“Please, always bring documents to support your application for change of data.
“For instance, with marriage certificate, we don’t have problem with those changing their names for that purpose,’’ she said.
She also gave an update on passport intervention in some states, citing
duplicate of record as a challenge in producing some of those passports.
“While on the field, some applicants presented the passports before the ones that had just expired so when you logged in, it showed duplicate record, and some made their payment in other Consulates,’’ the official said.
Reacting to the remarks of the officials and questions relating to passports, a Nigerian community leader, Francis James appealed to the Federal Government to provide passports production machines for the Consulates in New York and Atlanta.
James, who co-anchored the meeting with Bobby Digi, the President of NIDO New York chapter expressed worry over the gap in understanding the entitles responsible for passports production to the nationals.
“Unfortunately, the nationals don’t know that Innovate (Immigration Technical partner) is not the Consulate, that the Consulate is not responsible for NIN and also visa and if anything goes wrong, they will come back to the Consulate.
“We need to decouple this relationship so that people will be clear about what the Consulate is responsible for and the affiliated entities that are processing passports on behalf of the Nigerian government, which the Consulate has the control over,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Ayodeji Saba of Sterling Bank presented some of the new products the Bank has for Nigerians in the diaspora and assured the citizens of best services if they patronise those products.
Also, Ms Mima Velasquez of New York State Department of Labour presented sone opportunities, offered by the department to the immigrants and urged the residents to take advantage of those opportunities. (NAN)