|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.”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|
“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|
|The waiting room with an old box TV|
|The lobby, customers check if passport is ready|
|Teenagers catch fresh air while mother goes in|
|No AC, baby develops rashes|
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|