DEAR NIGERIAN IMMIGRATION, WE DEMAND BETTER TREATMENT AT THE AIRPORT!!!
”who are these little girls traveling and where are they going to? Who is their leader? You girls need to get consent letters from your parents!” ?!
In light of this viral video that spread across international media, we’ll love to share our experiences with the Nigerian Immigration officers at the airport. Though the man in the video has apologized for his actions/words and “met some men with integrity” at the Nigerian Immigration, we have to ask ourselves the hard questions.
Are there really any men/women with integrity at Nigerian immigration or things changed because he’s gotten the attention of the Vice President?
From accusing us of human/girl trafficking to demanding our clients have $1000 in cash for a trip, we’ve been verbally harassed and defamed in every way, shape or form by the Nigerian Immigration. At work, we fondly call them “the bane of every Nigerian travelers existence”.
The harassment kicks into action right after you step out of your car. “Are you the person traveling?” Yes I am, you answer. “Where are you going? Can I see your passport and boarding pass?” You show them and they let you in, not after struggling to slide your luggage a beat-up looking X-ray scanner. If your answer to the first question is No, best believe you’ll be told to step aside and told you cannot go into the international airport until you have given “something to the boys”. An international airport is a public place!
We understand that for security reasons or touts, entry should be restricted but not when a family is seeing off their loved ones. Not when a group of friends came to say goodbye to a friend that’s relocating. We understand that you are doing your job, but harassing people for money before they are allowed into the airport isn’t your job. That’s extortion!
Right after security, your bags are checked in and boarding pass printed out. On your way to the boarding gate, you’ll encounter another set of officers ready to harass you. You definitely get it “better” if you are a solo female traveler or a group of female travelers!
“On two occassions I’ve been held up wrongly at the Nigerian airport and almost missed my flight” says Tosin Oludare. In May 2018, she planned a girls trip to Dubai and went for a girls trip to Dubai with her friends. All documents asked for was provided but the immigration officer she encountered claimed she didn’t prove she’ll be back to Nigeria. They detained her for a while and she was forced to “settle them” with N3,000 after negotiating from N10,000.
“I was so upset, they made me look like I was wrong for wanting to travel”.
Another Nomad also shared her experience, not a personal one, with Nigerian immigration. “They tried to detain a lady traveling to Latvia by insisting a Yellow Fever Vaccine was a prerequisite to travel. They told her to pay €100 for one, it was terrible. We stood by her an insisted that this vaccination card was not required and they finally let her go.”
Our own experience or experiences (cos we’ve had more than one) has been a different kettle of fish. Every time we have been on a trip we have been harassed individually or as a group.
It was our first group trip this year and a first meet for most of the Nomads! Everyone was ecstatic, Morocco we are coming! Flights to Morocco on Royal Air Maroc take off at 6am in the morning and this meant we had to be at the airport at 3am. Some of the Nomads got there the night before.
After checking in and getting our boarding passes, we told some of the Nomads to proceed to security while we wait for the others. “Please come to security they don’t want to let us go” was the message we got in the WhatsApp group. What is it this time? We had engaged a protocol officer to help us with taking everyone in but somehow that didn’t work. Security looked chaotic! About 15 women stood there trying to explain “why women were traveling to Morocco alone”.
We understand their concern, girl trafficking but there was no question asked that wasn’t answered, no document that wasn’t provided. Where are you saying? We showed them our reservations. Why are you going? We let them know it was an Easter holiday. How much do you have? We let them know, more than enough for our five night stay. Where do you work? Various ID cards where shown; from
CBN, oil companies, multilateral, banks and even a governors office. Where is the letter from your parents? If you don’t have a consent letter from your parents we will not let you go. This one silly question got everyone triggered! How do you ask grown women, the youngest in the group being 25, for consent letters from their parents before you let them go?
It was an hour long war which ended up in us making a few phone calls before letting us go! What an experience!
This was similar to Morocco but short lived. We learnt from our Morocco experience and decided not to go in as a large group anymore. After everyone checks in and gets their boarding pass, they head to the gate and go in through security as individuals or in pairs. We did this on our trip to lebanon but for some reason they stopped a few of our Nomads (the women of course) and insisted they had another motive in Beirut. We tried to intervene and they tagged us “the one trafficking these small girls”.
We put on our lawyer hat and let them know that accusing someone of human trafficking in public with zero proof is defamation of character and they could be sued for that. After a bit of an argument, they let us go.
Our lead on this trip was held up at security for almost an hour. This resulted in her almost missing her flight, but everybody knows, almost doesn’t count. She was asked all the necessary questions to which she answered with hard evidence. When it got to the “how much cash” question, the harassment began. “You have $1,000? What’s a small girl like you doing with $1000? Who is your father? Where do you work and who do you work for? Where’s your ID card?”.
This “conversation” ended with the officer asking her to settle him with $500 or else he won’t let her go and she will miss her flight. Let’s just say she didn’t miss her flight and didn’t part with any amount of money.
This was probably the most shocking of the lot. We stayed back to ensure everyone had gone through immigrations as we were almost certain something might go wrong. As predicted something went wrong. One of our nomads was sent back to “withdraw” $1,000 in cash for her trip! We had everything booked and paid for. We had evidence of payment printed out. Accommodation had all been paid for, all the tours had been sorted out too but this smart lady at immigrations insisted that having $1000 in cash was a prerequisite to travel and held on to her passport. We told her to get her passport from the lady, telling her she needs it to get money at the Bureau Du Change and she went through the other wing! You bet if she withdrew the $1000, it would have been an “anything for your girl” situation.
We have not gone on this trip yet. Curious to see how well they do
It’s bad enough that the international airport is an eye sore; there are no comfortable seats…actually no seats at all, half the time the air conditioner doesn’t work and the bathrooms are nothing to be proud off. Then you add impolite and unprofessional immigration officers to the mix! It’s a jungle out there and we can only hope sharing these stories make things better.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) released a statement with the subject “access to terminal building” which everyone has agreed to print out, have on their phones or “carry on their heads, LOL. It’s so pathetic that we have resorted to printing out statements from the management of government organizations as proof to show workers within the same organization. That’s how failed the system is. Telling the public “not to give money to anybody to gain access to the terminal” will not cut it. In the past, we have all seen viral videos of airport security in physical fights with citizens trying to gain access to the terminal. No one wants to be that person. Periodic trainings are very important! Purging the system is importanter.
Finally, as travelers or airport chaperones, we need to put our foot down in certain situations. As a matter of policy, we do not give any money to immigration officers or security personal. So please let’s put a stop to it. Follow the rules. Have your return ticket, boarding pass, hotel reservation, booked tours, medical letter, Yellow Fever vaccination card etc intact and print them out if possible. Don’t take liquids above 100ml in your carry on so you aren’t tempted to bribe someone to let it go. Be polite at all times and answer all questions politely!
We’ll love to read your immigration horror stories (if you have any). Like we stated earlier, we hope having conversations about this harassment travel encounter changes things.