Saturday, August 21, 2010

A traveler’s cruel experience at Porga border of Benin Republic


As a citizen of an ECOWAS Member Country, the sense one gets from the concept of free passage is that of movement (across borders) without hassles; for example, if one has to travel through any ECOWAS countries. No visas needed, just show your passport or National ID Card as the case may be and everything will be fine. This though, is clearly not the case.


There are always demands for money before stamping ones “passport” in all the borders I have passed through many borders (talking of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Burkina-Faso and Mali). There’s never a receipt issued for this kind of payment, never. This makes me wonder if it is even authorized. This payment demanded at the border posts, ranges between 300cfa to 1,000cfa and when you inquire why you had to pay, the polite ones amongst the officers will tell you it’s for stamping (one’s travel documents) while the rude officers will just ignored you and put your passport aside.


This particular experience I’d like to talk about got me shocked beyond words and it can quite easily be ranked the worst of all my travels within the West African sub-region. I passed through Porga border of Benin Republic on the 11th of August, 2010 where we encountered disrespectful immigration officers that treated everyone with total cruelty and rudeness. The vehicle I had boarded arrived at Porga border and we all submitted our travel documents as usual. When it was my turn, the officer in charge asked me to pay 5,000cfa to get my passport stamped and when I inquired why, he did not even bother to answer my question but rather, he ordered me to get out of his sight and go wait under a tent that was 500 meter away from his office. I asked why I had to go stand and wait there but much to my chagrin, I was met with another rude answer ‘to please not ask him any question, but do as he said’. I even barely got the question out of my mouth when he screamed and ask me to do what he said.


All the other passengers were treated the same way even worse; in the case of a lady who had forgotten her passport. She went to have a discussion with the only woman amongst the 3 immigration officers who instead of explaining to her if it would be possible to pass without her passport or other forms of ID, she screamed at her and gave her a slap! She had to part with 10,000cfa with her fiancé before they were allowed to cross. What in God’s name is that!? Why was everyone treated like criminals at Porga border by the officers in charge? Many other travelers were ordered out of the officers’ sights, as the officers rudely cut into their speeches thereby making it difficult for anyone to speak or ask a question. Another passenger was locked up in their office after being dragged like a common criminal.


I was advised by someone to bring what I had so I won’t delay the other passengers. I pulled the remaining 2,000cfa that I had to give the officer but was ordered by the second male officer to go back to where they asked me to stand! I had to ask our vehicle driver to lend me 1,000cfa. After all the cruel treatment meted out to all of us, the officers demanded that I pay the sum of 3,000cfa before my passport can be stamped. I do not believe that the Benin Republic government would have approved of this nor they aware of this behavior. This kind of occurrence at Porga border gives one ample cause for worry; as this neither promotes a positive image nor practice. I worry that if this is left unchallenged and the officers not better trained/enlightened in order to carry out their jobs/functions more effectively & efficiently, things will only get worse.


16 comments:

Ginger said...

Hi Standtall. That must have been a very terrible experience at the borders. The thing is there's really nothing much you as a foreigner can do after all you are on their soil. Sometimes I feel its our customs officers that corrupted all the others. maybe not. Thankfully you're home now.

StandTall-The Activist said...

Thanks a lot for your contributions Ginger. I still do believe there is something we can do. Like sending a complaint to their embassy in Nigeria as well as a letter to ECOWAS... publishing the story in a newspaper should help as well. It is one thing that they are collecting money and it is another that they are victimising people.

Bill said...

Toyin - I was on a hurry on my first past and skimmed your first paragraph. I just came back and read the whole. This is terrible, but, believe it or not, my wife, children and I had a worse experience with a Canadian border official many years ago. I will tell you about it sometime.

In the meantime, I hope you spread the word far and wide and if it is the Benin government would not approve, then they should arrest these men for extortion and remove them from these jobs forever.

Anyaposh said...

What rubbish is this? Is this what we're signing the Lome Accord for, to be treated without respect? What is the point of ECOWAS if we're going to keep getting this kind of bad behaviour? My uncle traveled through benin, togo & ghana as well and he received the same bad treatment with demands for bribes and "miscellaneous" fees.

And how can they slap a traveler for refusing to be extorted? This is too bad on the face of WEST AFRICAN.

StandTall-The Activist said...

@ Bill: I am trying to get the story to ECOWAS and to other necessary bodies including the embassy of the Republic of Benin

@ Anyaposh: in fact they collected 10,000cfa from the lady and her fiance after slapping her. And she has come on a long journey... I believe ECOWAS is doing a lot to set things right but we need to get this story out to them and I will see that that is done... Though ECOWAS does not have any mandate to force their decision on any countries but they can try and intervene I suppose

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

this is horrible! Where all the people on the bus from Naija? Just want to clarify that point before I start sending this out to folks...

e kpele oh, my dear.

Ginger said...

Hi Standtall, There's something we can do of course. I remember when a group of us (from UI then) went to Ghana some years back, we refused to pay a dime at the borders. We stood together as a unit and called them out. It was soo bad at Aflao border (Ghana), the Immigration officer actually pushed my gfriend. She deliberately fell and just lay there. It was fun to see the immigration officers look of alarm. They quickly passed us. We needn't have to go to all that length. But if All travelers on a bus or something insist on not paying. Maybe ..just maybe a change can start. but alas..we are impatient. its easier to pay the bribe than waste time fighting for right!

StandTall-The Activist said...

@ Solomon Sydelle: No, there are just few Nigerian in the bus and we are all coming from Burkina Faso going to Cotonou to continue our journey different. I was originally coming from Mali

StandTall-The Activist said...

@ Ginger: that was a story of courage you just told. Many at times I ask people to let us stand together but many will not corporate cuz they already taken this mess to be 'how things are'. I hope institutions in charge will be more concerned to rectify this unfair treatment.

histreasure said...

Africa, My Africa..this was such a terrible thing that happened but alas, that is the customs for u, such cruel people, who knows what evils they have committed there and no one will ever know, if only have government have plitical will-power, must of these would be reduced.

StandTall-The Activist said...

histreature: hi sis. At least we will do our bit by not keeping silent over all these atrocities. Thank God for the new media. I am sending my complaint out to the embassy of Benin Republic and ECOWAS...

Zena said...

I'm still getting over the fact that they slapped a passenger......

Afrigenic said...

you serious they slapped someone, that is stupid and the person still paid all this just to enter Benin. Na wa oh

N.I.M.M.O said...

All the other West African countries complain that the Nigerian Customs and Immigrations treat their own nationals worse and what they do is just taking their own pound of flesh.

I have traveled Lagos-Accra route for quite and I have seen other West Africans being dealt with between Seme border and Mile 2 International that I have learned to just shut up and bear it. Most times now, I simply fly.

Coming from Accra, before Seme, there is a check point or post like every 5 kilometers, after Seme, there is a checkpoint like every 50 meters with one each for Customs, Immigrations, NDLEA, Port Health, SSS, SCID, NAPTIP, NPF, FRSC, LASTMA, IBB, OGD ... [you get the point].

Even if you paid N50 [160 CFA] at every point by the time you are through the obstacle-course, you'd have spent about N1000 [3000 CFA].

The Beninoise actually take the cake; they display a glaring inferiority complex when dealing with Nigerians. I think the Ghanaians are now much nicer.

Nice post.

StandTall-The Activist said...

N.I.M.M.O:
Yes, I know about those checking points too. I have being plying this route since April. I still do believe that raising these issues and sending our experience to the press and other necessary agents and organizations will have an impact. I will just have to continue to do that. I am in Burkina today but did not pass through Porga and I have not seeing anything unsual when if you take the usual demand of 300cfa or 500cfa for stamping…

Afrigenic: She was even going to Nigeria, I think for an introduction with her fiancé. They are just passing through Benin

Zena: it was a shock to me too, that they will dare to slap someone.

Kafo said...

thanks for this knowledge
one can only pray that your voice will rise with those of other people that have been mistreated and change will happen

My Passion, my focus, the change that I want to see in the world - is my propellent factor.

Label Cloud

Gender (72) Feminism (46) Interview Thursday (46) Gender Equality (38) Gender and Development (29) Cat lover (24) Poem (24) Cat Tuesday (22) Women's Human Rights (19) Cats World (16) 16 Days of Activism (11) Africa (11) Violence Against Women (8) Information Sharing (7) Music (7) Nigeria Development (7) Women and Leadership (7) Children Rights (6) Exprience (6) Leadership (6) Rest in Peace (6) Change and Development (5) Corruption (5) Day to Day Exprience (5) Events (5) Governance (5) MDGs (5) Peace and Security Fellowship for African Women (5) Relationship (5) Security and Development (5) Women (5) Call for Application (4) Change Maker (4) Dairy (4) Mistake (4) Navy abuse of Uzoma Okere (4) Nigeria in Focus (4) Relationship and Marriage (4) The Feminist Cats (4) BlogHer (3) Chicago July Trip (3) Children (3) Discrimination Against Women (3) Domestic Violence (3) Injustice (3) King;s College Fellowship (3) Lessons (3) Niger Delta Crisis (3) Online Community (3) Religion Matters (3) Travelling (3) Wedding (3) Women Activists (3) Women Empowerment (3) Women in Governance (3) Youth (3) democracy in Nigeria (3) 2009 Edition (2) A girl-Soldier (2) Activism (2) Annivesary (2) BlogHer Conference Scholarship (2) Bloggers for life (2) Democracy and its Struggle (2) Female writers (2) Forced Marriage (2) IAC09 (2) ICT4D (2) International Wome's Rights Day 2008 (2) Journey to London (2) LGBTI (2) Lack of respect for other people's perspectives. (2) Life from Cape Town in South Africa (2) Lovely Cats (2) Male Child Preference (2) Male Child and Domestic Chores (2) Memories (2) My Boss (2) My life in London (2) Nigerian Youth and Development (2) Nigerianstalk (2) No to VAW (2) Rape (2) Sexual Violence and GBV (2) Taking Peace and Security (2) Technology Camp for Girls (2) The Admired Female Bloggers (2) The Changemakers (2) The Future of Nigerian children (2) The Late Kudirat Abiola's Remembrance (2) The Martyr of Democracy (2) The girl child and her chanllenges (2) Untimely death (2) Uzoma Okere court hearing (2) V-Monologues (2) Violation of Human Rights (2) Women making a difference (2) 10 years remembrance for the O.A.U 5. (1) 1in 9 Campaign (1) 2010 self-surfacing resolutions (1) A Ride with my Father (1) A just world with God (1) ALF Program (1) AWID Forum 2008 (1) Activism Scholarship (1) Adaeze Experience (1) African Sexualities (1) Aspiring Filmmaker (1) Bad Leaders (1) Beating by a mad man (1) Becoming my Cats (1) CSDG (1) Career (1) Child Marriage (1) Children without education (1) Children without future (1) Climate Change (1) Conflicts (1) Corrpution and Hooliganism (1) Court System (1) DLTW for Young Female Doctors (1) Democracy Day (1) Divorce and Marriage (1) Dupe In Kenya (1) ECOSAP (1) Evangelist Taye Ajiboye (1) Extreme poverty (1) Female Circumcision (1) Female Film-Makers (1) Girls in Technology (1) Global Warming (1) Government (1) Hafsat Abiola and KIND (1) Human Behaviour and attitudes (1) I didn't do it for you by Michela Wrong (1) ICT and Women (1) Images from Mali (1) Incest (1) Indecent Dressing Bill (1) Info -Activism (1) Internattional Bloggers Community Award (1) Job Search (1) Journey across Africa (1) June 8 and Abacha’s death (1) Kenya July Trip (1) Knowing our continent (1) Lagos State Government (1) MOBILIZATION (1) Mali (1) Marriage (1) Michela Wrong book on Eritrea (1) Mother 6th Remembrance (1) Movement Building. AWID Forum 2008 (1) My first post from London (1) My health (1) NDQ Interview (1) Naija Blogger Awards 2009 (1) Natural Hair (1) Negative quotation on women (1) Newspaper review (1) Nigeria Media (1) Nigerian Sporting Activities (1) Nigerians and Abacha’s death (1) No light (1) No to FGM (1) Obama Prank (1) Outsanding Ore (1) PHCN and Nigeria Government (1) Passing though Ghana (1) Passing through Burkina Security and Development (1) Pastor Kehinde Ajiboye (1) Peace and Secuirty issues in the Horn (1) Police Force (1) Polygamist (1) Pregnancy and child bearing in marriage (1) Punishment of an elderly woman in Saudi (1) Rape Victim (1) Road and Bus Evangelism (1) Road trip to Mali (1) SOLIDARITY WTH WOMEN WHO SPEAK OUT (1) Self Defence for Women (1) Senseless killing by armed robbers (1) Serious Issues (1) Standtall Adevnture (1) Suicide bombing (1) Summit (1) Tactical Tech (1) Take Back the Tech (1) Tell Magazine (1) Terrorist Attack (1) The Uncoventional Clergy woman (1) The Bauchi Killings (1) The EU Summit Report (1) The Eritrea history (1) The July 10 Martyr (1) The Liberian Women peace building effort (1) The O.A.U 5 (1) The PM Tabloid (1) The danger of a single story (1) The late social Crusader (1) The meeting with London Bloggers (1) The rescued kitten (1) This Violence must stop (1) Tips to having a Happy Relationship (1) Traditional Role (1) Transforming Nigeria (1) Travelling through Africa by Road (1) Tribute to Chief Gani Fawehinmi (1) Tyranny (1) Umar Mutallab (1) Understanding Security (1) Uzoma's Justice (1) Verastically Vera (1) WORLD AIDS DAY (1) We need peace in our land (1) Women E-Campaigners` Training (1) Women In Technology. ICT4D (1) Wrong Culture and Belief (1) Yar'adua (1) Youth as agents of Change (1) meeting US bloggers (1) my love (1)