Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nigerian embassy in New York broke, unable to pay salaries or fix air conditioner (PICTURES)

Unable to bear the heat, customers stay outside for fresh air
The Nigerian Embassy in New York has fallen on bad times. For months, workers have not been paid. Neither is the embassy able to repair its air conditioners, the only source of air since the windows of the magnificent glass house cannot be opened. Visitors now wait outside the building while their passports are being processed!


There are no windows in the 21-storey glass building
I needed to see for myself. I’ve heard that it’s been more than a month since the air conditioner broke down at the Nigerian High Commission in New York. It was 32°C (93°F), and there are no windows or cross ventilation in the 21-storey all-glass building located on 44th Street and Second Avenue. The only source of air in the edifice is the air conditioning units.

Outside the embassy, visitors were sitting, waiting for their passports. I approached a woman with two kids, a boy and a girl. Idera had been sitting outside for hours, while her husband breezed in and out of the embassy. The heat inside was unbearable for her and her children. She showed me the boy; his face was covered with sweat. She lifted his arms; “My baby had no rashes before we came here today, now his two arms are covered with rashes from the heat. It’s like an oven in there,” she said.

Customers stay outside for fresh air
When her husband came out, he hesitated to tell her, but despite waiting for six hours, the embassy said he had to come back in two days because they were out of ink.

“You won’t believe how rude they were; they talk to you anyhow,” he said. I begged them that my children cannot come back to this heat, but they didn’t care.”

8th floor where customers are supposed to sit, empty!
 Another family sat near the pillar painted in grey outside the building. The three teenagers waited patiently outside for their mother who kept going in and out. “We’ve been here for six hours,” one of them said.
8th floor where customers are supposed to sit, empty!
As soon as I got in the elevator, I thought of running back outside. On the eighth floor, the chairs were empty. The old standing fan made no difference. It was blowing heat. No wonder people sat outside. I went to the sixth floor, no air. I went to the fourth floor, no air. I went to the second floor, no air. I had to see for myself.


Standing fan on the 8th floor for customers
Getting back to the first floor, I went to the waiting room, where about three families were waiting. Two families gathered around a standing air conditioner, the only air conditioning unit I saw working in the building. I was so happy to see at least one source of fresh air, and I mentioned it to the two families. I was surprised by their response.




“The air conditioner didn’t work all day; we were all sweating, so most people went outside. It was later in the afternoon that it started working,” they said.

Families gather in front of the only Air Conditioner I found in the building
I was short of words. I looked around the waiting room, and I was ashamed. How can this be my embassy? I saw loose wires hanging on the walls near the surveillance camera, and an old box television with nothing playing. Though beautiful outside, the huge building made me feel like I was in Nigeria, at one of the ministries’ run down offices.

The waiting room with an old box TV
A man held his newly born baby to his chest at the waiting room,

The lobby, customers check if passport is ready
“My baby’s food is finished,” he said. I begged the staff all day to please help us do the passport today. We came very early, all the way from Pennsylvania; we drove for five hours, they just dismissed me and told my wife and I to come back on Wednesday.” They told him to come back in two days because they’re out of laminating supplies. I was confused; I thought they were out of ink, now it’s laminating supplies.
Teenagers catch fresh air while mother goes in 
From what I gathered, some diplomats have not been paid for four months. Some local staff also have not been paid for two months. The mission is unable to pay for medical insurance of staff and diplomats. So, I was not surprised to hear customers say one man was willing to produce passports if money exchanged hands. However, I have no means of verifying this information, because while I was in the room, the man did not take money from visitors. They offered him cash, but he rejected it.

No AC, baby develops rashes 
An embassy employee noticed me and wanted to query me. So I asked, “Are you happy working under this condition?” He looked at me and said “no!” I told him my hope in reporting this, is that the Federal Government will release funds to pay salaries and fix the air conditioning. I found out even if they get money today, it could take two months for the units to work.

Back outside, I met a man that flew in from Minnesota. “They just told me to come back on Wednesday, how am I supposed to do it?” He works in Minnesota; now he has to change all his plans and his return flight if he wants a new passport.

Several families have to come back to this heat. I only spent about 40 minutes in there, and I couldn’t wait to buy a bottle of water, which I drank in a gulp. I was drained!

For two days, I tried to get a top official of the embassy to comment on these issues. Finally, after telling me to call back again and again, the official said he needed to get approval from Abuja before he could talk to the media.



I went back three days after my first visit, security told me there was an instruction that I must not be let into the building.


  
Heatwave: Customers waiting outside

3 comments:

  1. What a shame... saw the inhumane conditions unbelievable.

    ReplyDelete
  2. They were the voice from the diaspora few months ago. Thats dividends of Buhari's government.

    ReplyDelete
  3. New York is too expensive. The office tower should be put up for sale at this point. Many of the function of the UN embassy/consulate can likely be performed from a smaller space. Travel documents can be obtained through their website, or the embassy in Washington.

    ReplyDelete