Tricks Nigerians Play To Travel Abroad
• It Is A Function Of Societal Dysfunction — Experts
IT is a well-known fact that many Nigerians are daily migrating abroad in search of the proverbial greener pasture. Usually, the reasons prompting this act range from economic to sheer adventure. Interestingly, this fact has come to be accepted as the inevitable fallout of the country’s dwindling fortunes. What is spectacular, however, is the length and ‘ingenuity’ some of these travellers adopt to achieve their aim.
Take the case of 54-year-old Jelili Adesanya, who reportedly married his own daughter just to get her a British visa. Having lived in the UK for more than 30 years and in possession of a British Passport, Adesanya reportedly married his daughter, Karimotu Adenike, in a fake wedding ceremony in Lagos in 2007. The scheme was that his ‘supposed wife,’ after having been duly granted permission to live in the UK, would divorce her father and remarry her real husband to also get him visa alongside their four sons to join her in the UK.
Luck, however, ran out on father and daughter, as the scam was exposed by one of Adesanya’s workers at the Immigrations office in the UK.
In another development, the Nigeria Police Special Fraud Unit, Milverton, Ikoyi, Lagos smashed a group that specialises in smuggling desperate Nigerians to the United States of America.
According to reports, members of the group usually match-make their preys with confirmed winners of the America visa lottery. Thereafter, the new couples journey to the States as husbands and wives.
The incident, which blew open the whole scam, as reported in 2013, involved a male schoolteacher and a female prey from Ekiti. The two were arrested after they had gone to the US Embassy, where they were to be interviewed for immigrant visa to the USA, as a couple. The US Consulate considered the act fraudulent.
These are few of the numerous unlucky cases of the illegalities some Nigerians engage in to obtain visas to travel abroad. Experts say this became pronounced in the last 30 years, when the rate of unemployment soared, ravaging a large chunk of employable youths and adults, who now resort to crooked methods to get into Western countries.
Another criminal method of travelling abroad involves the use of another individual’s passport in which the new, albeit fake owner of the passport bears the data identity of the original owner. It is, however, believed that the electronic passport system should eradicate this.
Barrister Yemisi Oladeji, a visa appeal lawyer, who handles migration issues says the implications of procuring visa illegally usually result in the cancellation of the visa, if it had been already collected before it was discovered.
“If discovered at the point of application, the visa would be refused and the person could be banned from entering the country for some time,” she says. “The individual could also be arrested or completely denied entry to that country or may even be arrested at the airport. Similarly, the person could be sent to prison, if detected, while living abroad and finally deported after serving a jail term.”
Oladeji explains that there are stringent rules in place to deal with such dubious activities and these vary from one country to the other. “For instance, Section 320 of the United Kingdom immigration rules deals with penalty for trying to get UK visa through deception. False information or fake documents would lead to a ban from entering the country for up to 10 years.
“I had a client, who lived in Germany. He was arrested and put in prison. After finishing his jail term, he was deported. Some years later, he tried going to the UK, thinking they wouldn’t have a record of his past. Unfortunately, however, information about him had been passed across all the Western embassies. In the form he was given to fill, they asked if he has ever been denied visa and he replied in the negative. When they discovered it was false, he was banned from entering the country for the next 10 years.
“Some of these questions asked by the embassies are just to set the records straight. It doesn’t mean they are doing anything with it. But Nigerians think those people are like us that don’t keep proper records. You will be shocked to know how they detect false claims.”
Oladeji says the rate at which Nigerians seek for visa has been on the increase.
“In fact, Nigerians just won’t give up. Before the advent of the finger print passport system, some Nigerians had up to five different passports so that when one got seized they could get through with another. But these days, this is impossible, as the finger print would give them away,” she explains.
She believes that impatience on the part of those seeking to obtain visa has led to some agents milking them and making money from them, while providing them with fake documents, which in most cases, are unknown to them.
“All these dubious agents have a way of messing up their clients. They would do some funny packaging and supply details and information when filling forms, of which more often than not, their clients are not privy. They then demand that their unsuspecting clients bring certain amount of money, promising to get everything done properly and ready. Sometimes, they even go as far as putting fake documents in it and that is how some people get into trouble.
“Some people get lucky with the fake documents, while others are not so lucky. An ‘arrangee’ couple may travel successfully, only to be visited at home by officials, maybe, before they get their permanent stay document. And if the embassy officials cannot find traces or pictures to show that the people that came into their country are husband and wife, they get into trouble.
“The extent to which some Nigerians go to get these things done is really ridiculous. These embassies have also become very mean. What they do now is to employ Nigerians, who leak the secrets, which they then use to nail their fellow Nigerians,” she says.
Shedding light on the reasons people engage in illegalities to gain visa grants into Western countries, Dr. Emmanuel Balogun, a senior lecturer in the Economics department, University of Lagos, says people migrate from a country, where infrastructures have generally failed.
“When there is no basic amenities such as water, electricity and poor transport system, the people living in that country often feel that by migrating, they are going to live in a better enabling environment to generate more income. Usually, they do this either formally or informally.
“It becomes illegal, if the migrants find uncompromising ways to make the trip. The driving force behind this is more economic because people that migrate believe they will live in a better environment and earn better income.
“Looking at the means through which these passes are gained, you discover that if they do not win a visa lottery, they look for ways to circumvent some of the conditions and rules attached to international migration. This is responsible for the increase in the incidence of these cases.
“In our country today, there is a high level of unemployment and it is not just ordinary. You find a significant proportion of educated people unemployed. It is also the root cause of economic destabilisation we are witnessing today. Meanwhile, those that are less educated are being manipulated by political godfathers, as thugs or terrorists. As they say, the idle hand is the devil’s advocate.”
In the same vein, the fact that the educational curriculum has been disrupted in Adesanya’s view is further aggravating the problem.
“Parents, who send their children to school and budget that in four years or less their wards would graduate and be employed, find that this is a mirage. You now find that such courses are extended to five years and more. This disruption becomes problematic when you find that for a greater part of the year, some of these children are idling at home. So, the parents of these children sometimes find ways to get their children to travel abroad by whatever means.”
Dr. Balogun notes that this practice started in the mid-80s. He recalls that when the Nigerian economy was relatively buoyant, the educational system was one that trained people for white-collar jobs.
“But this wasn’t an education system that imparted skills on people. That is the negative effect we are having today,” he said.
According to Prof. Olabisi Aina, a lecturer at the Sociology department in Obafemi Awolowo University, people engage in such illegalities because of structural negligence.
“Nigeria needs to heal itself. Even those who have been given the opportunity to live abroad legally do not get all their rights and privileges in another’s land. But the moment Nigeria heals itself all this will stop. When human beings cannot fulfill their potentials, knowing the local and physical environment is hindering them; they will do anything to go abroad.
“It is sad, but in one way or the other, Nigeria has turned its citizens into criminals. But if the leaders and followers can bring lasting peace to the country and ensure the citizens’ welfare and wellbeing, Nigerians will stop going abroad. We should stop blaming people. Rather, the structure that produces them should be condemned,” she says.