Thursday, August 16, 2007

Diplomatic Impunity

I have no doubt that every morning, the staff of the British High Commission in Nigeria wake up, peruse their newspapers, and heave huge sighs of relief. Another day has passed, and their offices haven't been bombed, burned down, invaded, etc.

They probably exchange "jolly goods" and any other nonsensical expressions when they arrive at work, and settle down for another day of doing what they perhaps enjoy more than anything else - looking for new and innovative ways to scam Nigerians.

For, make no mistake about it, a massive, massive scam is going on at the British High Commission, perpertrated through their UK Visa Applications Center.

Now, perhaps, we Nigerians are partly to blame, what with our apparent burning desire to visit their country and contribute our quota to its development at the expense of our own, and they can perhaps claim that in the mire of thousands of applications that pour in daily, legitimate persons get the bum's rush. But come the fuck on!

Here's how the scam works - you pay your Visa Application fee, and are given a form to fill. The staff of the UK Visa Applications Center are remarkably helpful in letting you know what documents to submit in support of your application, depending on what type it is. You go off, get the required documents, ranging from Sponsors' Letters to Bank Statements, and submit them in support of your application. Then you settle down for a two-week waiting period (officially). At the end of two weeks, assuming you've done all they asked, they should grant your request, right? You'd be sooooooo wrong.

Over the past year, several people I know have applied for varying visas from the UK VAC. All of them have been denied. Perhaps, you say, all these people have wrongly filled in their information, or failed to provide vital documents, but that isn't so.

My good friend, who is now in the UK and contemplating a Ph.D, was denied a student visa on his first application on the ground that although he'd paid his school fees in full, he was not considered to have sufficient funds to pay for his Masters Programme! Huh? He paid the entire fee, submitted evidence of this fact, and yet was told he didn't have the funds to pay for a Masters programme, which he'd already done. It was only on his second application that the Visa was granted. Naturally, he had to pay another Visa Application Fee, and submitted the exact same documents, before he was granted his Visa.

Another friend was denied a student visa on the grounds that the tax clearance certificate submitted by him in support of his application was "fraudulently obtained". Mind, the tax clearance certificate in question wasn't his personally, but belonged to his father's company. In support of his student visa application, he submitted bank statements from 4 banks, each showing a healthy account balance, and corresponding history of high volume transactions. Apparently, not being able to deny him on financial grounds, they came up with "fraudulently obtained tax clearance certificate". The young man has now obtained a letter from the tax clearance comptroller verifying the certificate, and re-applied, paying another Visa Application fee. They'll probably grant this one.

Yet another person was denied a visiting visa on the grounds that he deposited money into his account "suspiciously close" to the time he paid his Visa Application fee. Naturally, they failed to provide a definition of "suspiciously close". So, while he had evidence of funds to finance his trip, he failed to provide evidence of their origin, and could not therefore be given a Visa. Nice, eh? So, if you were to come into a million naira contract after years of sweating it out, and slogging away, you should wait a few years to apply for a UK Visa, so as to avoid applying "suspiciously close" to when you were finally smiled upon by God for your years of hard work.

And finally, my personal favourite, and one that doesn't simply take the cake, but takes the entire fucking pastry industry. A young lady I know wished to visit the UK on holiday. She happens to hold a respectable job at a big bank, and she's worked there for a number of years. In her case, she was told that while she had submitted print outs showing places of interest to visit in the UK, she had failed to provide a "reason" for her trip, and then, the whopper - she was further informed that while she had shown evidence of financial status vis her ability to pay for her trip, the trip would consume her savings and was therefore not feasible!!! Since when did the UK VAC become a financial advice center? And is it not customary for people to save money for vacations? I've heard people give interviews on TV and say stuff like "I always wanted to visit Australia, so I've been saving up for the trip", or something along those lines. The lady has since decided to take a trip within Nigeria for her vacation, somewhere down south.

Now, when a man who was previously dirt poor becomes a Senator or Honorable, decides to take a trip to the UK and submits personal bank statements in support of his application, you'll never hear questions like "origin of funds?" or any other bull shit. They don't want to know whether he had N20,000 in his account a few days ago, and a sudden deposit of N200 million two days to his Application would not be considered "suspiciously close". Fuck no. The Visa would be granted with immediate alacrity so he can go shopping on Bond Street for fine new suits, and spend some of our hard earned currency in their land. Indeed, they'll probably give him directions to the most expensive shops. For such people the normal rules of rejection do not apply.

I say these people are extremely lucky they do not provide these shabby services to people who have short fuses, and I don't believe they would dare run such an ovbious scam even in Ghana!

But this is Nigeria, no? The land where anything goes, and usually does.


Chxta said...

Guy, do me a favour and call U...

Aaron Rowe said...

I can't stand this VAC either, their website is poorly designed and insecurely programmed.

However I know a Nigerian who got their visitors visa today, no worries at all.

I do have it on good authority that the BHC handles over 1200 applications a day in Nigeria alone. Yet how many people fly out on planes each day on a new visa? not half that I'll bet.

bighead said...

They have no excuse for some of their methods but tell me, what do we really expect them to do? let every applicant through so that we double their population and halve ours?

The reason why applicants are relatively "few" sef is because most people have heard stories like yours and are reluctant to apply. if they throw the gates open, we'll have to build new airports to cater for the traffic

nene said...

Maan, yu have got it down pat!

writing is good, flows...

But I go still enter there collect my Visa! No worries, will give yu the lowdown AFTER I collect it.

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