BreakingNews 5/5/16 - The Norm at the ECOWAS Borders

[ Masterweb Reports: Udegboka Nkechi Tessie reports ] - I am Udegboka Nkechi Tessie, a passionate African doing all I can in my little way to better my continent. I am very optimistic and patriotic about my country, Nigeria and Africa as a continent. I will be part of those who would develop Africa despite frustrations in doing so. I had a charitable mission to execute in Abidjan and thought it wise to explore ECOWAS borders to travel by road. In doing so, I have to disguise myself as a common citizen to get the feel of what majority experience.  

 

While in the city of Abidjan, a small bag containing my international passport with valid visas and other items got missing, thus I couldn’t return to Nigeria on the due date. The missing items were reported to the Ivorian police district in Cocody and some money charged before they could issue me a police report. The continuous search for the passport and reporting to the Nigerian Embassy in Cote D’Ivoire halved the supposed transport fare to Nigeria; so I became scared of getting stranded in Abidjan. Was told by the Nigerian embassy they could only translate the police report in English; and that I was covered to travel by road. I know of many illegal fee collections at the borders and vowed not to pay any as to enable the amount I have take me home.

 

THE JOURNEY BEGINS:

 

ELUBO-IVORY COAST BORDER

 

Ivory Coast Side: I met a couple travelling to Accra in a taxi that brought us to the border. Upon arrival at the border, the immigration officers stopped us and asked for our travelling documents which the couple provided while I showed the covering document with me. The couple paid 1000cfa each and told mine was 5000cfa. I pleaded with them that I did not have such amount and had in fact lost other valuable items while in their city, Abidjan. They sent me back; 'I should go back to Abidjan’, they had ordered.  I stood outside for over twenty minutes while their boss instructed they shouldn’t let me go until I pay the money. Another officer interrogated me on my mission in Abidjan and where I was going to, which I gave a detailed explanation. After thirty minutes, he let me go.

 

Ghana Side: As I stepped into the immigration office, I saw same Ghanaian couple leaving. The officer asked for my passport, I gave him the covering note.

 

“Pay 1000cfa”, he said.

“I don’t have any money with me” I replied.

“So how would you get to Lagos?” he asked.

“The couple that just left will help me to Accra”, I told him. He said I should run to meet up with them. The couple boarded to Accra while I boarded to Aflao border.

 

 

There is an immigration point about an hour drive from Elubo where we left from. Every passenger was asked to get down from the vehicle and walk through a room presenting identity cards or travel documents with accompanied illegal fees. About 57 passengers all paid between 500 – 1000cfa.  I was asked to step aside until they finished collecting money from other travelers. Seeing I wasn’t ready to cooperate, he asked I go back to Abidjan and get an Emergency Travel Certificate (ETC) from my embassy. Secondly, he said, the police report and embassy letter was not addressed to them. As I stepped to enter the vehicle, another officer asked me what the problem was. As I started explaining, he interrupted me to ask if I am a Nigerian. Immediately I said yes, he left me and said “that is why you are like this”.

 

All the 57 passengers paid the illegal dues and crossed over to board the bus and I was kept far from the bus to go back to my embassy in Abidjan to collect the ETC. The driver started the ignition and on seeing I wasn’t moved to pay, the officer finally called me to join the bus, but instructed that next time I should get an ETC.

 

AFLAO BORDER

 

Ghana Side: I woke up and found myself at the border with about three other passengers. The entire luggage was gone and all that was left was my small bag. Many ‘okada’ bike riders approached me so they could easily take me across, I told them ‘no, I want to cross the border myself.’  I got down from the vehicle, washed my face and proceeded to the immigration departure side. It was 6am, they just resumed work for the day, and I was their first client. “Your passport”, I gave him the police report and the documents I had. He glanced through and asked I step aside; they would address my issue later. I did, while I watched as hundreds of travelers pay fees in cfa and cedis to cross the border. Despite some travelers having their travel documents and yellow fever cards, they were mandated to pay stamping fees. For over 40minutes, the immigration officer was busy collecting fees and kept me waiting.

 

He came later that I should pay 10000cfa to continue with my journey. I said, “I don’t have such, you have just read from the police report of what I lost”.

 

“We are not interested in your money, we only try to do the right thing; hurry up so you can leave”, he said. I was politely stubborn and insisted I have nothing to pay for. A gro

 
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