Nigeria will soon reopen its Consulate-General in San Francisco to provide consular services for the huge population of Nigerians residing on the West Coast of the United States.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Gabriel Aduda told the News Agency of Nigeria in New York on Monday that the plan to re-open the mission had reached "an advanced stage".
The Federal Government shut down the San Francisco, California, Consulate in 1989. The five-room, 4,250-square foot property is owned by Nigeria.
Aduda 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 said.
The permanent secretary said 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 an on-the-spot assessment.
"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,'' he said.
On the state of facilities in the Nigerian missions, Aduda said there was the need for the facilities to be maintained as some of them had been in existence for so long.
"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," the said.
The permanent secretary 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 backlogs, so the inability to meet up is what created the problem in offering passport service to Nigerians abroad.''
The permanent secretary assured Nigerians living in the US of improved services on passport issuance.
He said with the level of support the ministry was getting from NIS, the missions would not be talking about the shortage of passport booklet by the end of the year.
The permanent secretary said the Nigeria High Commission in London had a backlog of about 19,000 passports but had been 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, we will be on a clean slate.
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 able be to buy-in.
He said people would get to know the opportunities, the advantages and rich resources in the country, adding, "we are going to do more of the shows.
"We only showcased two festivals – the Osun-Osogbo and the Argungu Fishing Festivals – out of the diverse cultural festivals. We hope it will actually draw people to exploit the tourism potential of the country.
"If you look at Osun-Osogbo festival, you will notice so many foreigners; if you look at Argungu, you will see many foreigners, if you look at Calabar carnivals at the end of the year, it is the same.
"In fact, there was a time we had about 20 different countries in attendance at the Calabar carnival, so apart from the economic benefit, you would have raised ambassadors that will go back with good image of the country,''