How the Nigerian Immigration Service Almost Got Me Deported From Kigali

October 28, 2022

“So, Mr David. How many passports do you have?”

Weird question. God, when will I have more than one passport o? But they didn’t ask all these questions to my travel companion. And by “all these questions”, I mean: What are you doing in our country? Where will you stay? What do you do for a living? Oh, and for where I worked, they asked me to write down the company’s website on a piece of paper. 

I froze as the immigration officer looked at the paper I’d written “Zikoko.com” on, and typed something into her computer. What if she found this story? It’s the only thing about their country I’d written for my Abroad Life series, and Rwandans didn’t like the story.

But her next question was, “How many passports do you have?”

“Just this one”, I replied. 

“So, why wasn’t it stamped from your country?”

I was confused. My travel companion — with whom I’d gone through the entire airport process in Nigeria — was confused. Let’s not even talk about how stressful that process was. In retrospect, there weren’t a lot of stages. It was just long, strenuous and the airport was hot. And airport officials begged for money at every stop. Maybe frequent travellers are used to this wahala, but it was my first time leaving Nigeria. 

“Did they stamp her own passport?” I asked, pointing to my travel companion. 

The immigration officer didn’t say anything. She just raised the second passport and showed me a stamp with the day’s date. Wahala. I and my travel companion were shocked. We didn’t know when the passport was stamped.

“So what happened?” the immigration officer asked, as nicely as she’d been all the while. 

I didn’t know. In Nigeria, we’d done the entire process and submitted our passports together. If they stamped her passport, they had to have stamped mine too, right? I explained this to the officer while we flipped all the pages of my passport. No stamp.

And that’s when she told me they’d have to ask me to go back to my country to get the stamp. They couldn’t grant me access into their country without my country’s approval. 

Hay God. The first time I decided to leave the country, my village people followed me. What had I done to deserve this?

After a few silent seconds, other people from my travel group passed by. They’d been cleared by immigration without questions or wahala. So I stopped them and asked, “Did they stamp you people’s passports in Nigeria?”

All four of them said no. 

The immigration officer in front of me was shocked, and I was scared I’d just put four people in trouble. She turned and called them over to inspect their passports. All four passports had the Nigerian stamp. But just like the person I was travelling with, not one of the four of them knew when their passports were stamped, so they were all surprised to see it.

The immigration officer let them go. 

But because my travel companions were nice people, they stalled for a few moments to find out what was going on. And then, they asked another immigration officer what would happen to me. 

The response? “There’s a 99.9% chance he has to go back.”

I was shaking. 

The first immigration officer left to get her superior. I had to stand there for about ten minutes, trying to look calm. When she came back with a man, he asked me what the issue was. I told him everything I’d been saying since: We went through the processes together and submitted our passports together at every point. We didn’t know when they stamped her passport. It must’ve been an omission. 

When I was done, he looked at me for a few seconds and said, “I guess that’s fine. Welcome to Rwanda.”

Rwandans are so… nice. I’m not saying this because they let me into their country o. I interacted with many people in the course of my six-day stay there. You know the type of niceness that’d make you, a Nigerian, wonder, “Am I supposed to give this person money?” That type of niceness. 

Back to Nigeria

I prepared my rant and came back to fight.

“YOU PEOPLE ALMOST GOT ME DEPORTED!” 

“I SLEPT AT THE AIRPORT!”

“I WENT FOR A BUSINESS MEETING AND LOST MONEY BECAUSE OF YOU PEOPLE!”

But the heat and long line to the arrival immigration point at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport mellowed me. When it got to my turn, I calmly explained the situation and what I wanted — a departure stamp. A frequent traveller had told me not having a departure stamp on my passport could be a problem for me in future travels. 

The man I spoke to called his superior, who in turn, seized my passport and tried to blame me for sneaking past airport authorities to Rwanda. I just laughed. 

“Young man, you think this is a joke? You’ll explain how you did this. This is a very serious offence. We cannot accept you back into the country!”

So I told him to check their system for my thumbprints and picture from the day I travelled. If I’d snuck away, how would they have that information?  When he heard this and saw I wasn’t scared, he began to go on a “So, are you trying to say it’s our fault?” rant. I just stood there and started at him. Five minutes passed in silence. And then another five minutes. Then, they stamped my passport to show I’d arrived in the country. 

“Sir, what about my departure stamp?” I asked.

“This isn’t where they do departure stamps. Sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

One of them signalled for me to wait in one corner for him. After about ten minutes, he came to meet me and gave me his number. If I gave him a call any day, he’d meet up with me and help me take my passport for a backdated stamp at the departures department. 

He didn’t mention a price, but I know his “niceness” will come with a cost. 


“Travelling Made Me Feel Like a Bird Set Free” — Abroad Life

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