NIGHTMARE IN BROAD DAY


Corruption has been the main bane on Africa’s under-development. This social vice takes several forms. Despite the rhetorical expression of desire by African politicians to fight this canker-worm, we still have it starring us in the face. The fact is that, it is one saying it and the other ensuring that is done.
The international organizations such as the European Union (EU), African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), among others, provide for the enjoyment of its members certain privileges.Unlike the EU and the likes where the enjoyment of those privileges are guaranteed with little or without hindrance, the same cannot be said of ECOWAS and AU.
Come to think of it; it has always been a nightmare traveling by road across many African states .Unlike the EU where one is guaranteed to travel with or without any hindrance provided one has secured all the necessary travelling documents, the case of ECOWAS is completely a differnt story. Ironically, it is much easier traveling without any travel document at all!
One of the most important travel document is the international passport. In Africa, this document has been given different name tags -’virgin passport’, ‘fairly used passport’ an the likes and bearer is charged based on the category he/she possesses.
I embarked on a journey from Ghana to Nigeria on the May 18, 2011 with my newly acquired biometric passport. At the Ghana side of the Aflao border, I was charged three Ghana Cedis (GHC3.00)  to have my new ‘virgin’  passport stamped by the Ghana Immigration Service. Anything short of this, as I was told, attracts an automatic embargo. From the Togo borders through to the Benin borders, I paid 2000CFA to have my passport stamped plus another 300CFA I paid separately to other officers.
Seme border (the frontier between Benin and Nigeria) is rated by travellers as the toughest of all. The ‘toughness’ by deduction means paying money to several uniform officers including unwarranted delays. And to save us all the these troubles, our driver handed over the vehicle with us on board to another driver to manoeuvre his way as he has been known for robbing shoulders with the officers after he had given him some money. He drove us through unapproved routes where several check-points or better still pay-points have been mounted.Within a distance of hundred metres, I counted ten pay-points and the driver paid two hundred to three hundred Naira (N200 to N300) at each of them. In the good name of makig things easier for us on this particular border, the driver collceted our passports for stamping. It took him close to an hour to do this. On his return, he told me my virgin passport cost two thousand Naira (N2000) to be stamped.
All these were just prelude to the bigger story ahead.About 5 meters away from the border in Nigeria, I saw several groups of people in all manner of uniforms. Some were fully armed and looking willingly ready for action. They were scattered all  over the place – on the sides and  the middle of the road.  Some even mounted kiosks in the middle of the road.
Our vehicle was signaled to stop at gun point. The driver pulled to a halt. Upon stopping, he was simply asked to do the right thing and he gave them N200 to each of the uniform officers. Within a short distance, I counted at least six groups of men and women in various uniforms. Over a distasnce of about 100km, I was able to count 18 pay-points mounted by uniform officers. At each point, the driver paid between N200 and N400 to each group. It became interesting when the driver resorted to begging his way but that served not a good substitute for the money-conscious officers. So he had to eventually pay to be let go. I was told the officers have different obligation to perform: checking of luggages, passports, safety among others. And I do remember that our booth was checked only twice and that was due the driver’s hesitation to pay immediately, all the way from the Seme border along the Badagry Express Way to Agbara . Yet he was made to pay. Whereas some of these uniform men and women were rather aggressive at getting what is due them, others simply open their palm without uttering a word or would not be forced to say a word, to collect their money.
Irritating and annoying as it were, one has no choice but to follow the rules of this game and stay away from trouble.

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