THE need to be extra vigilant while trying to obtain crucial and relevant documents in Nigeria came to the fore recently when a man who ignorantly obtained a vaccination certificate popularly referred to as yellow card was nabbed at the Idiroko border, Ogun State by Federal Ministry of Health officials. His arrest however led to the apprehension of two members of a syndicate which specialised in issuing such fake yellow cards by the Ogun State Police Command.
Yellow cards are issued to intending travellers to indicate that they had been vaccinated against yellow fever and other communicable diseases as listed and requested by some countries. Vaccination is recommended for persons over nine months of age travelling to or living in endemic areas. The vaccine affords long-term protection.
Such countries require a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate. The vaccination is expected to be administered at least 10 days before travelling and no longer than 10 years before, under International Health Regulations.
Parading the suspects to Crime Reports, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police revealed that a victim (name withheld) who wanted to travel needed an international passport and a yellow card from one Banji Alade which would indicate that he had been vaccinated against some illnesses.
Though the man succeeded in obtaining the yellow card, he was reportedly arrested by health officials from Ministry of Health at Idi-Iroko border on January 8, when it was noticed that the yellow card he had was a fake one. He was immediately arrested and transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Iyaganku, Ibadan.
When interrogated, he revealed that he obtained it from a young man around immigration office at Festac town, Lagos State. This led detectives to the place and two suspects—Mr Ademola Opere and Mr Banji Alade – were arrested, while other fake copies of the yellow card were recovered from Opere.
In an interview with Mr. Opere, a 53-year-old man from Lagos State, he said the cards were brought to him by one Tafa who sold them to him at N300 each, while he made a profit of N200 on each by selling at N500 to middle men who in turn sell to intending clients. According to Opere, “I have a business centre where I do photocopy and downloading of information from the internet to clients. The centre is at Festac Town in Lagos State beside the office of the Nigeria Immigration Services.
“The yellow cards were given to me by Tafa. He told he had them for those who might want to obtain them. He brought them in 5s and 10s. In all, he had given me 25. I collected N500 for each, out of which I got N200 and I gave Tafa N300. I thought Tafa was a local government official.
I never knew it was wrong to sell them. I didn’t know they were fake, if not, I would not have collected them from him.”
The second suspect, Alade (32), an indigene of Iwo, Osun State who lives at Ojo in Lagos State also said he was one of the touts who used to help people do online payment and downloading for international passport around immigration office at Festac Town. He further revealed that the arrested victim was directed to him by an immigration officer.
The immigration officer, called me that someone needed a yellow card and asked whether I could assist him. I took the man’s data and went to Mr Opere to get the yellow card for him.
“I got to know from other people working around the immigration office that Mr Opere had the cards. That was how I got involved. I had obtained four from him. I used to collect N1000 from the clients but I paid Mr. Opere N500 and made N500 profit for myself. I never knew what I was doing was contrary to the law,” Alade said.
In his own defence, the immigration official told Crime Reports that he only asked Alade to take the victim to the Ministry of Health secretariat at Ikeja since the man told him that he was not familiar with Lagos. “I never knew he had the intention of writing fake yellow card for the man,” the official said.
The PPRO however said that investigations were still on as the police commissioner, Ikemefuna Okoye was determined to wage war against producers of fake documents.