If you’ve ever had to travel with a Nigerian passport, the chances that you’ll run into some problems are not slim. Being a Nigerian means a lot of things, and one of those things is that you’ll get profiled simply because you’re Nigerian.
We spoke to Nigerians about their experiences with immigration officers in different countries. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Lade, 29
A few days after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to bomb an airliner in America and it came out that he was Nigerian, my family of 5 was returning to Nigeria from a holiday in the USA. It was when we got to the airport and saw the news – we had no idea this had happened. At the point of the security checks for departure, which was on orange alert, we submitted our passports and what left the officer’s mouth was “There are five of them.”
We were searched like we stole America. Physical search, electronic search, everything. The guy that was searching kept apologising profusely that he was just doing his job and we have to understand the situation on the ground. My dad tried to make jokes to ease the tension. And then when they found nothing, they let us go.
2. Chrissy, 31
I travelled to Spain on a trip with my girls. They all had EU passports, so I was the only one that had to get a visa. We were having so much fun that we decided to extend the trip by 4 days. Here’s the twist: I’d completely forgotten that I had a 1-week visa. I thought I had a 3-week visa. So I agreed to the extension.
The drama started on the day I found out about my visa. Coincidentally, it was the day of my initial departure flight and because I didn’t cancel that flight I tried to see if I could still catch it. By the time I got to the airport, the flight had been gone for five hours.
The next flight was the next morning and I didn’t want to wait one more night in Spain because I didn’t want any problems so I started emailing and calling the Spanish embassy to extend my visa. I don’t know where I got the audacity from, but I sent emails telling officials that I needed a visa extension for a visa that was expiring in a few hours on a Sunday.
Obviously, nobody replied to my mails or picked my calls. So I gave up and went home, waiting for the police to come and find me. When I woke up the next morning, I thought “Fuck this, I’ll enjoy my remaining four days here. Whatever wants to happen should happen.”
On our departure date, the guy at the airport saw my passport and called one of the officials to have a private discussion. I remember looking at my hands and thinking, “What will handcuffs look like on these hands?”. Thankfully, they just gave me back my passport and said, “Enjoy your flight.”
3. Michael, 29
I travelled from Lagos to Dubai in December 2020 using Kenyan Airways. I was hoping to use the layover in Nairobi to briefly catch up with a friend. Upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, I proceeded to the Kenyan Immigration/Passport Control desk to get my transit visa on arrival – this was the norm up until 1st Jan 2021.
There were about 7 Europeans who were on the same flight with me from Lagos and were also going to Dubai. They were trying to get the transit visa as well. I watched as they were all granted visas. Nobody in immigrations asked them any questions. They simply collected their payments and stamped their passports. However, when it got to my turn, the immigration officer attending to me directed me to an office to speak with the Head of Immigration. I found that weird. When I got there, the guy I met told me I wasn’t going to get a visa. I was furious. I’d literally just seen them give visas to a bunch of Europeans who came on the same flight I did and were also going to Dubai later. I had my boarding pass showing that I was clearly laying over, and only booked a Kenyan Airways flight cos I wanted to meet someone in Nairobi.
They couldn’t give a solid reason why they were not giving me a visa. I know it’s because they were xenophobic because I’m a Nigerian. So after some time, I asked if I could use a different passport to get the visa. My British passport. If you see the way their eyes lit up when I mentioned that I also had a British passport. The senior immigration officer there literally said, “You should have presented the British passport instead. You know how the Nigerian passport can be.” I was livid.
I insisted they stamped my Nigerian passport and threatened to write to the African Union about their xenophobia and profiling, and I’d include their names in the report. That’s when they started begging me and telling me to calm down, and that I should just have presented my British passport if I wanted to avoid any drama in the first place. After some time, they stamped my Nigerian passport. I was the only Nigerian on that flight that got their passport stamped, and it only because I had a British passport.