The Nigerian government has expressed its readiness to reopen the consulate in San Francisco, United States.
The office of the Consulate-General in San Francisco, which was closed over 30 years ago, on opening will be able to provide consular service services for the huge population of Nigerians residing in the West Coast of United States, according to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Gabriel Aduda, who disclosed the government’s plan while in New York on Monday.
Aduda said the plan to re-open the mission, which was shut down in 1989, is now at “an advanced stage“.
The permanent secretary said: “We think rather than having Nigerians residing in California travelling to the East Coast or to the North Coast, they don’t have to travel that far.
“The mission (San Francisco) is very important and in the next few months, before the end of the year, the mission will be running.”
He noted that the ministry and members of the National Assembly committees on Foreign Affairs had visited all the Nigerian missions in the US in June for on-the-spot assessment.
He said: “We visited the Embassy in Washington, DC, the New York Mission, the Atlanta Mission and we took a trip to San Francisco where we hope to re-open another mission that will service the West Coast.”
Nigeria already has a five-room, 4,250-square foot property owned in San Francisco, California, which was serving as Consulate, this Aduda said needs to be maintained as well as other missions in United States.
He said: “There is the need for upgrading, there is the need for routine maintenance and on the whole, service-wise, I think we were quite satisfied with what we saw at the missions.
“You will see that there are changes in all the missions in the US, especially Atlanta and New York, when it comes to the services that are being rendered to Nigerians.
“This is because, during the visit, it gave us the opportunity to discuss with the staff of the missions the new direction that the Federal Government is aiming.”
He however said most of the challenges presented by the staff were immigration-related and they were already being addressed.
Aduda said Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) was totally responsible for producing passports and that the shortage of passport booklets was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 slowed down a lot of things and we got a lot of backlog, so the inability to meet up is what created the problem in offering passport service to Nigerians abroad.’’
He assured Nigerians living in the US of improved services on passport issuance, stressing that with the level of support the ministry was getting from NIS, the missions would not be talking about shortage of passport booklet by the end of the year.
He noted that the Nigeria High Commission in London which had a backlog of about 19,000 passports had it cleared in three months.
He said another batch of passport booklets had been received at the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Atlanta adding, a lot is being done and we are hoping that before the end of this year, everything will be working at optimal level.
Aduda commended the Consulate-General in New York for providing improved passport services to Nigerians within its jurisdiction and for organising a cultural show to promote Nigeria’s rich heritage.
The permanent secretary said the consulate had adopted cultural diplomacy through the show to sell the good image of Nigeria to the world.
The consulate had on Saturday organised a cultural show, with the theme “Nigeria: Our Community, Cultures and Unity’’, to showcase Nigeria’s festivals, dances, and fashions, among others.
Aduda, who was at the event, said the consulate had promoted Nigeria’s culture in a way that people would be able be to buy-in.
Michael Olugbode in Abuja