The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
Today’s subject on Abroad Life visited Seychelles in 2021 and got the shock of her life when the airport officials found out her nationality. She takes us through the ordeal she endured at the airport which went as far as digital privacy invasion and getting her passport seized, and why she decided not to leave immediately
When was the first time you decided to move abroad?
2021. I wanted to go for my master’s in Ireland. I found a school, registered, my mum paid the fees in full, I booked my flight, packed my boxes, told everyone bye. When it was time for me to get my visa, I was rejected.
The rejection itself hurt like hell, but the reason was what shocked me the most. They said they rejected my visa “for financial reasons”. Now, me I don’t have money like that, but it wasn’t my account statement I put there for proof of funds. It was my mum’s. And my mum is wealthy. Someone later told me the reason could have been that the money in my mum’s account looked unrealistic and that they must have thought we put the money there just for the proof of funds. It still didn’t make sense because we had paid the school fees in full, bought tickets and everything else I needed.
What did you do next?
I booked a vacation trip.
LOL. I was alone and crying on the day my visa was rejected when I saw travel tour ad to Kenya on Instagram. I wanted to travel so bad, I put down payment for it.
A few days later, I realised I actually couldn’t make the trip because it was happening very soon, so I reached back out to them to send me a refund. As I expected, they didn’t do refunds. Even if they did, a huge chunk of my money would be gone. I didn’t want that, so I told them to find another trip for me. They gave me two options — Maldives or Seychelles. I’d always wanted to go to both countries, but after some deliberation, I ended up choosing Seychelles. There was no special reason. I just figured I’d go to the Maldives another time.
How did the trip go?
It was exciting because I was leaving Nigeria for the first time. I went shopping for clothes, packed a ring light, all my favourite perfumes, everything. When I got to the airport in Lagos, I found out I needed an authorisation letter to go to Seychelles. I called my contact at the travel agency, and he apologised and said it was an oversight, but that if they said I needed it, I did. Normally it would have cost me $50, but because I was already at the airport, I paid $150.
We took Ethiopian airlines and stopped at Addis Ababa first. It was cold and beautiful.
I found out why people abroad say Nigerians are a bit “extra” for the first time when some Nigerian girl at the hotel where we stayed raised hell because she didn’t find toothpaste in her bathroom. It was embarrassing. Once I witnessed that, I promised myself I wasn’t going to be that Nigerian.
On the plane to Seychelles, I was the only Nigerian. When we landed, I joined the immigration queue to enter the country. Immediately the lady at the desk saw my passport when it got to my turn, she looked at me and said, “You have to wait”. That’s when the madness started.
She took me to a room and asked me to sit. After about 30 minutes, she came back and asked me for the purpose of my visit. I said I only came as a tourist. She left again. 15 minutes later, she showed up and asked me to follow her.
She took me to a different place where they checked all my documents again and asked me to show all the cash I had. If I didn’t have up to $1,000 for my seven-day stay, it would be a problem. Thankfully, I had that much money, so I thought that was it and they would let me go. We hadn’t even started.
Ah. What happened next?
They requested to search my box. I hadn’t seen them searching any other boxes, so at this point, all the alarms in my head were ringing, but I decided to stay calm for two reasons — I’d promised myself I wasn’t going to represent Nigeria in a bad light, and I didn’t want them to deport me. There was already an Irish rejection stamp on my passport. Adding one from Seychelles would be bad. When it was time to search my box, I realised I was almost the only one left at the airport. I asked them why they wanted to search my box, and they said it was regular practice. Regular practice? They hadn’t searched any other person’s box.
The “search” was so disrespectful. They flung my things everywhere. When I challenged them, they started screaming questions at me.
“Who are you here to see?”
“What did you bring for the person?”
“Did you come to see your sugar daddy?”
“Why are you here alone?”
“How can you call yourself a teacher and be able to afford this trip?”
“What are you hiding?”
If they were asking these questions politely, it might have been a bit more human. These people were screaming at the top of their lungs like I was a convicted criminal. Every time I replied, they told me to shut up and not interrupt them because they hadn’t finished speaking.
This is a lot.
When they didn’t find anything in my box, they asked me to pack it back. At this point, I was holding back tears. Once I packed, they asked me for my phone.
I first started by saying I couldn’t give them my phone, but they said I couldn’t enter the country if I didn’t give them. After some back and forth, they collected it and started going through my emails, WhatsApp messages and Instagram messages. When they were done with that, they went to my gallery to look through my photos. There’s a setting on iPhones that lets you hide pictures from your gallery and another setting that lets you hide the hidden photos from being seen. Omo, they went to my settings, unhid the hidden photos and started going through them. My inappropriate photos. Men and women gathered to look at them. I’d never felt so low in my life.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I rushed at them, grabbed my phone and told them I couldn’t let them look anymore. Then they said they wanted to search me.
What kind of search?
That’s the same question I had. If it was going to be one of those anal searches, I would just carry my load and return to Nigeria. There was one woman in the group playing good cop and she told me to go ahead with the search because it was just going to be me walking through a couple of scanners. When I was done with the scan, they said they still weren’t satisfied, so to let me enter the country, they had to seize my passport.
At this point had they mentioned what they were looking for?
No. I had no choice but to submit my passport. They gave me an official slip to carry around in case I went somewhere that needed me to show my passport, and I could only collect my passport on the day I was leaving.
When I apologised to the cabman my travel agency had paid to pick me up from the airport for making him wait for three hours, he said, “Don’t worry. You’re a Nigerian, so I expected it.” I cried all the way to the hotel. In my room, as I lay in bed and cried, I promised myself I wouldn’t leave the hotel premises until the day I was leaving. I called my mum and my boyfriend and told them everything. They were livid, and their anger made me angrier.
Did you stay indoors throughout?
Nope. My contact person at Seychelles was the manager at the hotel I was staying. Great guy. When he found out I was around, he came to welcome me. He knew that because I’m Nigerian, I would have experienced what I did at the airport, so when I brought it up, he was warm and empathetic. He told me Seychellois were not bad people, and it was only at the airport I would experience anything like that. He told me of a Dubai-based Nigerian girl that came to Seychelles for vacation, and after the airport experience, didn’t leave her room for the two weeks she stayed in the country. When I told him I was going to do the same, he begged me to change my mind because Seychelles had a lot to offer. That conversation helped me feel a bit better, but I wasn’t fully convinced.
What changed your mind?
Meeting a fellow Nigerian. I heard him on the phone in the lobby and detected the accent, so I kept staring at him until he looked back and said, “Omo iya mi!” I was ecstatic. When we started talking, he asked about my airport experience, and we shared stories about how terrible it was. When I heard his story, I felt a bit better about myself. His experience was much more intense because he’s a guy.
We laughed about the airport official babe who started it all and did most of the shouting and jokingly made plans to go and beat her up at the airport or if we ever saw her on the streets of Lagos.
I told him I wasn’t going out during my stay, and he said the best way I could get back at them was to enjoy my stay to the fullest. That was when I decided to enjoy myself.
Does he live in Seychelles?
He was on a three-week visit, but for a different reason. He was there to submit his résumé at different hospitals so he could find a job. He’s a doctor. It was a secret though because apparently, the reason Seychellois treat Nigerians like that at the airport and seize their passports is that they’re tired of Nigerians visiting their country and not leaving. If they knew at the airport that he was coming in to apply for jobs, they probably would have turned him back. He wasn’t going to overstay his trip though. He wanted to drop his résumé, leave and hope for a callback.
Expectation vs Reality: Seychelles edition.
I didn’t expect to be treated like that at the airport, but every other expectation regarding the beauty of the place was surpassed. On multiple occasions, I was speechless. The natives refer to their country as “paradise”, and I saw why. The beaches were beautiful and bursting with energy and life — people dancing, people getting married, people generally being happy.
I however didn’t expect it to be so expensive. Everything is expensive — from food to groceries to gift items. I stayed only seven days, but I spent over $1,000.
Tell me a bit about the people.
Generally, Seychellois are nice, warm and welcoming people. However, I didn’t like the men. Most of the ones I came across were absolute perverts. I guess it’s because they see a lot of foreign women. They catcalled me and said all the nonsense you could think of.
Sorry about that.
Was it difficult getting your passport back?
Not at all. I got to the airport two hours before my flight, so that if there were going to be any delays, I would still make my flight. I was ready to fight.
When I got there, I found out another department that handled the returning of passports. They were so nice. They were all smiling, asking me if I enjoyed Seychelles, telling me to come back, that they’d been waiting for me. I was angry. I wanted it to be the same people I saw on the day I got there. My plan before I got there was that once I got my passport back, I would hide it inside my clothes and give that girl a piece of my mind and insult her generations. It pained me that I didn’t see her.
Would you go again?
Everything after the airport was a great experience. It was so good, for a moment, I considered going there again. But no, I can’t go through that ordeal again.
Hey there! My name is David and I’m the writer of Abroad Life. If you’re a Nigerian and you live or have lived abroad, I would love to talk to you about what that experience feels like and feature you on Abroad Life. All you need to do is fill out this short form, and I’ll be in contact.