Like other countries in the bottom half of the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, if you have enough resources in Nigeria, you can buy almost anything, and unfortunately, that includes false identities and documents.
For a host of reasons, including the debilitating economy, Nigerians are eager to migrate to saner climes like Canada and the United Kingdom — places with nuances of legality and transparency — and ironically, some of them are ready to take whatever route to get there, even if it borders on illegality and wrongdoing.
While some people go through the blatant route of falsifying their identities, immigration fraud can take different forms. It could be participating in a marriage of convenience — this is a marriage that exists solely to allow a spouse to immigrate into Canada. Immigration fraud could also be impersonating a Canadian citizen and using their new assumed documents to bypass the requirements for a non-citizen. Additionally, immigration professionals could conduct counselling misrepresentation by wrongfully advising intending immigrants to falsify documents or to withhold important information on their application.
Regardless of the form of immigration fraud perpetrated, two things are certain: it is never the immigrant’s first plan, and the immigration professionals usually have an idea of the wrongdoing. This is because the corrupt ecosystem has continued to thrive due to dependence and interference from government officials, and in the case of immigration fraud, immigration officers. The immigration officers create a fake scarcity for everything — from the passport to the interview date with the embassy. They boldly tell law-abiding citizens that everything is fully booked, exhausted, or used up and that the applicant could bribe them, continue to be frustrated, or go elsewhere.
Unfortunately for some applicants, they choose the latter, and it turns out worse for them since they end up participating in immigration fraud without knowing the full extent. They pay exorbitant amounts of money to unverified agents for fake documents that will only get them into the handcuffs of the immigration officials in their country of arrival. Such was the case of Tochukwu Asika and Monday Alabi, who procured travel documents, including visas, to Canada from a travel agent, Mary, with the sum of 8.4 million naira, which loosely converts to 26,000 Canadian dollars.
They should have been tipped off to the dodginess of the arrangement when their initial trip to Turks and Caicos Islands was converted to a visa to Canada, but for some reason, they believed in her. They were arrested in Kenya, deported to Nigeria, and they alerted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to their predicament in order to catch the travel agent. Fortunately, the fraudulent travel agent was arrested and prosecuted.
Over the years, the number of Nigerian applicants indulging in immigration fraud have significantly increased. Although it may be argued as a relative increase since the number of Nigerian immigrant applications to Canada has seen a 375% increase in the last seven years. However, the Canadian government has continued to clamp down on immigration fraud and has tried to make the process of reporting faster, easier, and safer for all the parties involved by making the Canada Border Service Agency more accessible to citizens, residents, and non-residents of Canada alike. Nevertheless, the most sustainable way to reduce immigration fraud in Nigeria would be to reform the immigration practices in Nigeria, and ensure that those providing immigration services are either licensed or regulated by the Nigerian government. If Nigerian citizens see that the process is left untampered, they will regain faith in the system and immigration fraud will become a tale of the past.
Whatever form immigration fraud takes, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in conjunction with the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), will have encountered it and they will investigate it. It is only a matter of time. Therefore, Nigerians are strongly advised against it. It is important to note that recently, more intending immigrants are deciding to follow the legal route with all Canadian applications because, truly, Nigerians are good people. They are just stuck in a crippling environment.