It kinda feels like the migration gates have been thrown open, and folks are jumping on flights like it’s the last bus to Owerri Main Market on a rainy Friday.
If you’re also planning (or just hoping) to leave the country, you should have these in mind.
The passport office is a scam, and airport staff will tax you
My passport expired while I was in secondary school, so I needed to get a new one for university abroad. I got to know from my mum that the passport office had this system where people were divided into two — priority list, and those they don’t give a fuck about.
Luckily, my parents knew someone at the office, so we were bumped up. I know so many people who had to turn down admissions because they couldn’t get their passports. It’s crazy.
Also, please don’t be seen carrying money up and down at the airport. I left in 2021 but was naive and held dollars openly while trying to check in, and all the customs guys were like, “Drop something for us nau.” Guy, I’m literally your child’s age mate.
Be well informed ahead of your flight
I left Nigeria in 2021, and this was around the time when COVID-19 was still serious-ish. I had gotten a negative test one week before my departure and assumed I was good to go.
Imagine my shock when I got to the airport and learnt the negative test had to be done 48 hours before my flight. To cut the story short, immigration delayed me for a while, and I had to pay (almost double what I paid for my previous test) to get tested again, plus the tips I had to give the airport guys to help me make sure I didn’t miss my flight. I still had to quarantine when I arrived at my destination.
Always ask questions while planning; don’t let the fear of village people make you keep everything to yourself, only to end up spending extra like I did.
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Prepare to be delayed
Especially if you’re carrying loads of foodstuff and luggage. I moved to the US in 2019 for my master’s degree. Trust Nigerian mothers, my mum loaded me with foodstuffs sufficient to open a mini Walmart in Texas.
Although we correctly labelled everything and packed everything like our folks abroad had advised us to, these immigration guys delayed us by checking every single thing. Thankfully, my mum made sure I arrived the airport four hours before my flight. If not, I would have cried.
If you’re carrying a lot, make sure to make ample time for any kind of delay.
Corruption is very alive
I left the country in 2021, and listen, while I’m all for not pushing certain stereotypes, please still hold cash when dealing with immigration.
I had done the whole passport application process myself online. I remember it was ₦17,500, and all I needed to do afterwards was go to a passport office for my interview and other biometrics. It was supposed to be really straightforward.
Spoiler alert, it wasn’t. I had to pay an officer ₦12,000 extra to “release” the passport. That’s not all. On the day I was leaving, the immigration guys at the airport kept asking me to “bless them”. Be ready to drop something small, so you don’t get delayed unnecessarily.
Start processing your passport six months ahead
In a sane world, getting your passport shouldn’t take more than two weeks after completing biometrics and other requirements. But when my mum had to visit me in New Jersey around 2021 to help with my newborn, we saw hell. We had foreseen a delay, so we started the process when I was seven months pregnant. It didn’t change anything.
My mum and siblings kept going back and forth the passport office for about five months before the passport was ready. If it wasn’t an issue with finding her details on the system, it was some information suddenly becoming incorrect. We eventually overcame, and she got here when my baby was three months old.
The passport situation may have improved now, but always start the process early.