By Umeugoji Emeka Raphael
There is this derisive impression about Nigerian passport holders in most of the International Airports in different parts of the world, especially in Indonesia. The Immigration officers molest, exploit and forcibly take huge amount of bribes from Nigerians and threaten deportation if one refuses to give in. This happens even when one has not committed any offence. They show no respect to one’s Status so far you are carrying Nigerian passport.
On the 17th June 2019, I was once again greeted with harassment by Indonesian Immigration officers. The ugly incidence spurred me to take up a fight against their intimidation of Nigerians. I know that what they are doing is a corrupt practice and we are their major victims. No matter how our country is, we do not deserve such discriminatory extortion.
So, on that day, I arrived Soekarno-Hatta International Airport Jakarta, Indonesia, in an Emirates Airline from Dubai (EK0356). On disembarking from the Aircraft, I was walking to the queue when an immigration officer halted me. He asked for my passport. As he saw a Nigerian passport, he took me to their office and handed my passport over to his colleague. I greeted the officer sitting down in the office. He ignored me. Three times I greeted so he could say what the problem was but he remained silent and kept deaf ears. So I stood waiting for him to break his silence. I was standing, waiting for what I do not know, for 30 minutes before he muttered any word. Finally, he asked of my hotel reservation, return ticket and my Visa receipt, which I presented all to him.
The next question was, “do you want to go into the country?”
I said “yes”.
He replied, “Calculate the fare of a one-way ticket from Jakarta to Abuja and give it to me to permit you entry”.
I pretended as if I didn’t understand what he was saying. The next thing he did was to google the cost of a one-way ticket with his mobile phone and showed it to me that it was $1,200usd (N432,000). I kept silent, trying to make a sense out of his embarrassing demand. But he didn’t stop there. He threatened to deport me by making copies of my travel documents.
At this point, I remembered my sad experience on the 9th October 2018 on this same Airport for refusing to bribe an Immigration officer with $200usd which nearly lead to my deportation. On that fateful day, they had already handed me over to the security and airline staff, reconfirmed my return ticket, checked in my luggage for eventual deportation. Had it not been I was able to place a call to my visa sponsor who intervened immediately by calling the airport Immigration boss and pleaded on my behalf, I would have been deported for no reason and would have lost huge sum and time. To the glory of God, the deportation was reversed. Meanwhile, this is a country I have been traveling to for 12 years without any infraction of their laws in whatever way. I never overstayed my visit, never broke any law, never even accused of any offense. My only offense was carrying Nigerian passport.
With that bad experience, which I was not ready to have a repeat of, I decided to be soft to this one demanding I should bribe him with $1,200usd. He later came down to $500 (N180,000) after a prolonged pleading. I immediately gave him the money but copied his name and saved it in my phone.
On the 21st June 2019, I prepared petitions which I addressed to the following parastatals:
1. Kedutaan Besar Republik Federsi Nigeria (Ambassador, Embassy of Federal Republic of Nigeria)
2. Direktorat Jendral Imigrasi (Comptroller of Immigration)
3. Direktorat Saber Pungli (Anti-Financial Fraud)
4. Pengaddan Dugaan Pidana Korups (Anti-Corruption).
First, I visited the Nigerian Embassy, met with the Ambassador and handed over my petition to him. He summoned an emergency meeting with all the Embassy’s senior staff. He appeared very impressive. He commended my courage and promised to follow it up.
I stepped out of the Embassy and moved to Indonesian Immigration headquarters. On my arrival at the Immigration, it was difficult to gain access to meet with the overall Boss, the Jendral (comptroller), but when I claimed to be a Nigerian diplomat, they let me in. They ran security checks on me, gave me a form to fill my purpose of visit. I filled “High Rate of Bribery and Corruption Scandal Going on at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta”. This form must have caught the attention of the Immigration boss as he didn’t hesitate to request for me.
I gave him my petition. He read but couldn’t believe that such was going on in their Airport. I provided the name of the Staff, which I copied into my phone. He typed the name in an application in his Laptop and it displayed the photo image of the Immigration officer. I confirmed the picture was that of the man who collected bribe of $500usd from me. He thanked me for coming up with such information, which he said no one had ever brought to his desk. He made a promise that he would investigate the report and invite me for an update within 48 hours.
In less than 24 hours of my report, I was invited by the Immigration boss. Upon my arrival to his office, I was given a VIP treat. The Jendral, that is the Immigration boss, started with an apology on behalf of the entire Immigration and Indonesian government. He went further to tell me that the officer who extorted money from me accepted he did it, and implicated four other senior “intelligent” officers who were involved in the indecent act. He narrated that the five senior officers had been dismissed immediately, that their dismissal letter would be given to them at the end of our meeting.
A sealed envelope was handed over to me. Inside the envelope were an apology letter and a sum of $1,600usd. The Jendral did not know that the money enclosed in the envelope was above the amount they collected from me. He was so amazed when I told him the money was in excess of my money. He decided to confirm it himself and discovered that the corrupt officers at the Airport enclosed all the money they forcibly collected from Nigerians on board the Emirates Airline that conveyed me to Jakarta that day.
That was how I salvaged other Nigerians who arrived the Airport from that moment onwards. I was told Nigerian passport holders are now being attended to with full respect at the point of entry. The era of $500 to $1,000 bribe for nothing has been defeated.
Funny enough, the Nigerian Ambassador to Indonesia, who I first reported this case to, did absolutely nothing about it. He once told the Consular General, Emabassy of Nigeria, Indonesia, to inform me that they were still trying to get an appointment with the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia. Two months gone and they are still booking appointments. If I had waited for them, my money would have gone and our citizens visiting Indonesia for businesses would still be suffering intimidation and extortion. This is why nobody cared to report this crime to our Embassy because they all know that the report will be swept under the carpet.
In the photos are the petitions (with different addresses), Immigration form (Purpose of visit) and Immigration Letter of refund.
By Umeugoji Emeka Raphael