Home News Desperation for Foreign Travel Lands Young Nigerians in Jail

Desperation for Foreign Travel Lands Young Nigerians in Jail


Desperation for Foreign Travel Lands Young Nigerians in Jail, By Solomon Asowata, News Agency of Nigeria
Okonta, 25, hails from Ihiala, Anambra State. Okonta never had the chance of attending
a tertiary institution as he dropped out of Secondary School at the age of 17, following the death of his father.
Okonta, being the eldest of the lot had to travel to the nearby city of Onitsha to perform menial jobs to support his mother and three siblings.
“It was not easy. I worked as a bus conductor for about four years and the little money I was able to make, I was sending back home to my family for feeding and paying the school fees of my younger ones,” Okonta says.
But, the ‘turning point’ came in August 2013 when one of his friends, simply known as Okey, promised to help him to travel out of Nigeria to India, where there was a security job waiting for him.
After his friend had taken him to the Immigration Office in Lagos and paid the fees to procure his international passport, an excited Okonta says his joy knew no bound because he is already
seeing himself in India.
Okey filed the visa application at the Indian High Commission for him and after waiting for about a month for the visa to be granted, Okonta was arrested by police officers attached to the Independent Corrupt
Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
“I was told that some of the documents I submitted to the Indian High Commission, such as WAEC Certificate and bank statements were forged. I tried to get in touch with Okey, but his number was not going through only for our common friend to tell me he had travelled to China,” he laments.
At the conclusion of investigations, Okonta was charged by the ICPC before an Ikeja High Court where he is currently standing trial for forgery.
Like Okonta, the ICPC is also prosecuting 11 other persons before the Ikeja High Court for related offences—forging documents to enable them travel out of Nigeria in search of “greener pastures”.
On Nov. 3, 2014, Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of an Ikeja High Court sentenced a National Youth Service Corps member, Helen Bando,25, to one year imprisonment for using forged documents to process an Indian visa.
The judge also handed her accomplices, Samuel Obiakor and Segun Alimi, a year jail term each, after they pleaded guilty to the charge during their re-arraignment by the ICPC.
The ICPC had filed the charge against the convicts on Nov.15, 2013.
The commission’s counsel, Mr Paul Bassey, said the convicts conspired
to submit forged documents to the Indian High Commission, sometime in
2013, to enable Bando to obtain the country’s visa.
He said their alleged offences contravened Sections 25(1) (a), 26 (1)
(a) and (c) and Section 96(1) (a) of the ICPC Act.
Although the convicts had entered a plea bargain agreement with the
ICPC to pay N50, 000 fines and to be handed maximum six months jail
terms, the judge chose to ignore the provisions of the deal.
Delivering her judgment, Ipaye said Section 75 of the Administration
of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, upon which the plea bargain
was reached, was only to guide the court.
She said the court was not bound by the plea bargain agreement between
the defendants and the ICPC.
The judge said the desperation of the first defendant (Bando) to
travel outside Nigeria made her to conspire with the others to submit
forged documents to the Indian High Commission.
Ipaye said the action of the defendants had brought the country into
disrepute and could lead to the denial of visas to other Nigerians
with genuine intentions of traveling.
She sentenced them to a year’s imprisonment each, with no option
of fine– on the one-count amended charge.
The judge held that Bando’s sentence would begin from the day of the
judgment, while that of the other convicts would commence in June 2014 when
they were first remanded in prison.
Others still facing charges include Daniel Okoro, Sylvester Aghaonu,
Emmanuel Okeke, AdlineEkekalu, Philomena Nwanorue, Okwara
Oscar,Kennedy Nwosu and Sampson Ntiedo.
The suspects are currently facing charges for allegedly submitting
forged documents ranging from Letters of introduction, WAEC statement
of result, bank statement of accounts, sponsorship letters, company
registration certificates, to medical reports to enable them to obtain
Okoro, being prosecuted before Justice LateefLawal-Akapo, was granted
a stringent N1 million bail which he has been unable to perfect for
over four months.
As an aspiring footballer, whose ambition was to travel to India to play
professionally, he is currently being remanded at the Kirikiri Medium Prison, Lagos,
while his trial continues.
Also, the ICPC is prosecuting the trio of Kaka Dauda, Sunday Nweke and
Bartholomew Tumbu before Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf of the FCT High
Court for alleged complicity in visa scam.
They were charged with conspiracy, forgery and making of false
representation, in a bid to obtain travel visas to the U.S. for some
others now at large.
Speaking recently at a seminar held in Lagos, the ICPC Chairman,
Ekpo Nta, warned intending travellers to desist from patronising touts
at embassies in order not to run afoul of the law.
Ekpo called on embassies and high commissions in the country to
sanitise their visa processes and entrench a culture of integrity in
their visa acquisition process.
“The imposition of unreasonable procedures by some embassies seems to
have exacerbated the already complicated visa acquisition process
which tends to promote corruption-prone processes by unofficial
cartels within and outside the embassies,” he said.
Also speaking at the seminar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Ambassador Aminu Wali, said the activities of some Nigerians involved in
visa scam had tarnished the image of the country.
He said: “Today, touts and miscreants have constituted themselves
into visa procurement agents, luring peace and law abiding citizens
into engaging knowingly or unknowingly in visa scams.
“Some of those who deliberately patronise touts, using fake travelling
documents to deceive visa issuing officials, often travel out of the
country to indulge in all forms of criminal activities that dent the
image of our country.”
Wali commended ICPC for sanitising the process which has led to the arrest
and prosecution of suspects and their collaborators.
However, many Nigerians are of the view that unless the socio-economic situation
in the country improves, many young compatriots would continue to do
anything to travel out of the country.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a recent report said no
fewer than 5.3 million Nigerian youths are jobless, while 1.8 million
graduates enter the labour market every year.
The Executive Director, Socio-Economic rights and Accountability
Project (SERAP), Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, is of the view that the harsh
economic realities in Nigeria was making the youths to become
He said: “This socio-economic situation is caused by socio-economic
injustice in Nigeria and the failure of our leaders to manage our
resources to the betterment of the citizenry.
“If the socio-economic situation in Nigeria improves and the issues
of poverty and unemployment are addressed, there will be no need for
any Nigerian youth to want to go out of Nigeria to the extent of
becoming desperate.”
Mumuni, who recently launched a citizens’ guide to promote the workings
of ICPC, urged the commission to carry out more sensitisation
exercises to enlighten Nigerians on the dangers of patronising fake
travel agents.
Also, Mr Jude Imagwe, Senior Special Assistant to
President Goodluck Jonathan on Youths and Student Matters, advised
Nigerians to follow the right processes in obtaining visas when
traveling abroad.
“Government on our own part have always continued to educate people
that you travel only when there is need for you to travel, and if you
want to travel, you should follow the right procedure”, Imagwe said.
According to him, the Federal Government is making conscious effort to
tackle youth unemployment through programmes, like Youth Empowerment
Scheme (YES), Youth Enterprise with Innovation (YOU-WIN) and the
Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).

Previous articleTaekwando: We exceeded out target in 2014, says Chukwumerije
Next articleOgun to spend N1.27bn to conduct LG elections in 2015

Leave a Reply