By Vera Samuel Anyagafu
THE issue of ill treatment meted to Nigeria visa applicants by foreign embassies or their proxies has gone on for too long in the country, hence, the need for remedial measures, so that every visa applicant can experience less cumbersome visa processing.
It has become imperative for foreign embassies to treat Nigerian visa seekers with mutual respect and dignity, in their pursuit for visa to gain entry to countries of choice. Coming back to the point of the foreign missions who have outsourced their visa processes to VFS Global, and from the point of view of several applicants, it is necessary that these embassies should carry out quality assurance and insist on certain standards of service to applicants’ that seek entry to their countries.
As far as the likes of Matthias are concerned, the embassies that have outsourced their visa processing to the agency cannot be divorced from what goes on there. A number of applicants were expressive in their rage that customer care service should form the utmost part of the contract between both parties for more effective customer relation, and are not happy with the back-passing tips.
They argue that it is not enough for staff of VFS to wait in their offices only to receive application forms from applicants, after all, Nigeria applicants are those that pay for the poor services VFS provides. They are also of the view that Nigeria government should legislate a system across board that would observe its citizens’ complaints and also ensure that those complaints are treated effectively.
It is interesting to know that many foreign missions, like the United States, Spain, South Africa, United Kingdom, among others, outsourced their visa application management to VFS Global, to cut down on applicants waiting time at the embassies. But from the perspective of a number of Nigerian applicants, the management of VFS global may not be living up to expectation.
A recent visit by Vanguard Consular Advisory to the VFS Global office at Lekki, Lagos was very revealing. It showed that many Nigerian applicants that had to go through the application centre were still dissatisfied with the ill treatment they received on daily basis trying to procure visa. They still have to stand under the harsh sting of the sun, waiting to be called in and attended to.
While speaking with Mr. Matthias, who obviously was not aware that applicants are allotted numbers, it was realised that a certain number of applications are handled per day by the VFS Global and if unfortunately your number is not among them, you have to return the next day.
One of the applicants who simply gave her name as Jenifer queried why the VFS Global would have to ask applicants to pay a service charge, including SMS charge for the services of the company. She also queried why the management has chosen not to provide a sitting/waiting area for applicants, despite the service charge that applicants incur.
Jenifer said: “I am moved to ask what is VIP in visa application?”
Another applicant who declined to give her name said that since the South African embassy outsourced their visa application processing to VFS, the situation has become worse for her, adding “Many a time fracas have ensued among the applicants when they let out their frustration in anger on one another.” Describing herself as a frequent traveller, she speculated that the VFS Global choose to treat applicants to other countries a little more decently because of the fear that such countries would terminate the contract if their applicants are subjected to inhuman treatment, so why would South African embassy not do same.”
She also suggested that South Africa embassy should introduce online appointments schedule, so that applicants would not have to show up if they have no appointment.
Consular Advisory checks also revealed that the High Commissioner of the Republic of South Africa embassy in Nigeria, Ambassador Mamabola, had stated that the embassy’s final decision to move application matters away from the consular offices in both Lagos and Abuja offices, came as a aresult of the mounting criticisms levelled against the High Commission by Nigerian applicants, who complained daily of frustration as a result of the slow and ineffective pace of work at the consular offices as well as incessant cases of over-crowding, stampede and sharp practices by touts in collusion with consular staff.
In this light, therefore, many applicants for South African visa have opined that the Commissioner review the high commission’s contract with VFS Global to ascertain if the management of its visa application is any better with the VFS Global.