I had heard so many negative things said about the Nigerian High Commission (NHC) in Ottawa- Canada’s capital city. A lot of these negative comments were complaints about delays, long waiting hours, stressful commuting from out of town to get to Ottawa. That however wasn’t going to deter me from making the trip down there. To be honest though, I didn’t really have a choice. Ottawa is the only place all year round that citizens of Nigeria based in Canada can travel to, to renew their National passports. What this means is that people from as far as Vancouver, British Columbia have to fly 4 hours, 30 minutes one-way to Ottawa to renew passports.
Before I formally relocated to Canada in April ’18, I had tried to renew my passport in Lagos, Nigeria because I was aware of the my passport expiration date in Nov ’18. The Immigration authority however refused to renew it for me, insisting it had to be maximum 6 months away from it’s expiration, before they could oblige me.
And that’s how I found myself on an incredibly cold Monday morning- had to be -3 degrees- setting out on a train ride from Toronto to Ottawa. The train journey is about 5 hours one-way between these two locations. Thankfully, the train ride passed by uneventful, except for a lady with a really racking cough on the train that I thought was going to infect us all. Ohhh, Yes! There was also a swanky Nonagenarian that hunched back and forth on our carriage, exercising his legs. It was at once funny and cute to see someone that old concerned about his fitness levels.
My train ride to Ottawa saw me getting there at dusk. Because it’s winter, dusk typically begins from 5.30pm ??. I took two buses and arrived my airbnb for the night. My hosts were a sweet bilingual couple, who offered me part of their sweet-smelling chilli that hung in the air as I walked into their apartment.
The next morning, bright and early, I was up and ready to go. My plan was to get to the NHC on/before 9am with enough time to get my new passport and head back to Toronto same day on the last train at 6.30pm. Thank God I made the decision to book the last train of the day, because I ended up spending the entire day at the High Commission (HC).
When I arrived that morning at 9.30am feeling good with myself for being early…loool, I was handed a tag number of 83. How in 30 minutes of opening for the day, did 82 other people arrive at the HC before me? Well, they certainly did. The proceedings began in earnest as the staff from the HC addressed us. People were being called in groups of 10 for data and thumb print capturong and everything was moving smoothly until they got to number 69 around 11am. Suddenly, they stopped calling any more numbers and we didn’t hear from any member of staff until 12 noon. The gentleman who came out then explained that the ‘network was gone’?? I couldn’t believe it. Which network? In Canada again nitori olorun? How? Where was this network basedd we asked? Abuja they said… na wa!
And that’s how we ended up sitting for 4 hours doing nothing. I couldn’t help but wonder how the inefficiencies of Nigeria didn’t ‘escape us even though we had tried escaping it by being in Canada. At 3pm, the staff came into the room and explained that the network was still down but they were going to begin registration of 1st time passport applicants because it was possible to do this with the network down. Honestly it didn’t make sense that 1st timers could do this and not those who had to renew their passports.
Anywho, thankfully at 4pm local time, the miraculous network returned. Thanks to the speedy response of the NHC staff, the remaining 30 of us were able to get our thumbprints and pictures taken by 5pm. The staff even stayed back an hour past 4pm their closing time to make sure we all got our passports issued to us.
On my way back to Toronto on the train, I couldn’t help but think about the staff at NHC who surpassed my expectations with their professionalism. I didn’t feel the usual pressure of tipping someone to get faster service. It made me wonder about the mentality present in Nigerians outside of Nigeria. What makes us so ungovernable, unruly and crass when we are in Nigeria, but immediately switches out when we are away from home??
Which reminds me, I need to find a way to get a part refund for the 32 paged passport I received at the HC because the 64 paged one I paid for wasn’t available. ?♀️?♀️?♀️?♀️
***** Bonus info: On the day of my Ottawa trip, I wrote a Twitter thread of my experience there.
E go be! ✌✌