20 June 2019
Samson Akinola, activist, human rights lawyer and founder of advocacy group Agents of Change (AOC), seems to be following in the footsteps of the late and legendary Nigerian lawyer and activist, Gani Fawehinmi aka “Senior Advocate for the Masses”.
Akinola rose to prominence after a video he made flaying the incompetence of officials at the Nigeria High Commission in London, following an incident earlier this week when a Nigerian smashed up five diplomatic cars parked in front of the High Commission building, allegedly because his passport was not ready when he came to pick it up. Both videos of the damage and Akinola’s response went viral over social media.
Akinola, while not condoning the criminal damage of the vehicles, pledged to support the alleged perpetrator’s defence in court on the grounds of provocation by the Nigeria High Commission.
The activist was a guest on a programme entirely dedicated to the incident on the London channel BEN TV this evening. He said he had been called by 50 Nigerians saying they are willing to join him in court with their own experiences about chronic incompetence by High Commission officials. Akinola also claimed that, before this particular case, about three Nigerians had told him they wanted to vandalise cars at the embassy. He had to appeal to them to stop.
Several callers vented their tales of frustration dealing with incompetent officials at the High Commission, being treated like the officials were doing them a favour, poor customer services and so on. One caller, Dapo, said: “The Nigeria High Commission in London is a bedrock of frustration. An embarrassment to Nigeria.” Many of the callers could relate to the frustrations that led to official cars being vandalised. Others praised Akinola for standing up for the rights of Nigerians abroad.
Akinola also spoke about how officials at the High Commission did deals for people applying for passports and visas, that involved handing over bribes to an “agent” at a photocopying office nearby.
He narrated to viewers how over 20 of his letters didn’t get replies, the High Commission didn’t answer phone calls or respond to emails. The activist said he once handed in a letter by hand for the High Commissioner and was told it never got to him because it got lost while being moved from one desk to the next!
To further highlight the festering incompetence at the building in Northumberland Avenue, close to Trafalgar Square in the heart of London, Akinola said the website had not been updated for months to show that the Deputy High Commissioner had been posted to South Africa. He also said he didn’t get replies to his letters of complaint to former foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama and President Muhammadu Buhari’s former Senior Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs and Diaspora and now CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Akinola had nothing but scorn for Dabiri-Erewa, whom he accused of “eye service” – a combination of pretense and lip service in Nigerian parlance. He wondered why Dabiri-Erewa never bothered to reply to his letter, while she was swift to condemn the attack on High Commission cars.
Akinola and presenter Rose P Graham condemned Dabiri-Erewa for stressing in her statement that the High Commissioner’s car was bullet-proof. Akinola said it was a waste of public funds and pointless in a city like London.
Both presenter and guest also lamented the state of toilets at the High Commission, the absence of suitable facilities for people with children, the elderly, the disabled and so on.
Akinola put this down to incompetence from the top, the High Commissioner, to the other officials. He claimed they got their jobs due to “favouritism” and not merit.
The presenter then went in for President Buhari, who she said just wore his “starched agbada” and enjoys the pomp of the office without actually doing anything about problems like the one at the High Commission. She said Buhari was a major disappointment for his supporters like herself.