Let me start off by saying that I love being Nigerian, I love the culture and the diversity of the country, I love the music (both traditional and modern) and the food. I love my country, but sometimes I cannot help but wish I held another country’s passport. Before I first travelled abroad, people always spoke about how Nigerian Passport was trash and how much they couldn’t wait to trade it in for an American or a British Pali and I thought to myself “What a bunch of sell-outs”. Now that I have travelled abroad and experienced first hand what travellers with Nigerian Passports go through, I understand and even agree with the sentiments of the people I previously thought were sell-outs.
The first experience that made me realise the worth of a Nigerian Passport was when I was not allowed to board my Luftanhasa flight to Abuja (yes, I was not allowed to fly home) because I did not have a transit visa (actually an airport transit visa) for Germany. I was to fly from Istanbul to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Abuja (I think all Lufthansa flights transit in Frankfurt). I was so eager to go home that summer because I was so homesick after spending a year in Turkey. I was used to being away from home since I was a boarder in secondary school, but I was in another country with a different culture and weather and most importantly a very different cuisine. I missed Nigerian Food the most. On that faithful day, I walked confidently to the gate to check in and drop off my luggage. At the gate, there was a pre-check in passport control and the guy was just very condescending and had a disrespectful demeanour. He asked me the routine questions and then he checked my passport and saw that I did not have an airport transit visa and then told me that I could not fly home (insert surprise face emoji). I left the queue and went somewhere to cry (I actually wept). I just could not believe the sheer ridiculousness of the situation; I was being denied passage to my own country, not another country, my country because I did not have a visa to stay in the airport for 3 hours, just 3 hours. After crying and looking like an idiot in the airport, I went to the customer service to ask them if there was anything they could do for me and there was nothing (Hey, at least I tried). I had to return Antalya which is 12 hours away from Istanbul by bus (I was trying to save money) and buy another ticket, this time with Egyptair. The main reason why I did not book a flight with Egyptair at first was because of the conflict in Egypt; my family and I were concerned about my safety. I had to transit in Cairo in the end because that was the cheapest route that did not require a transit visa for Nigerians; yes people, I had to travel through a war zone to get home. Well, technically it was not a war zone, just civil unrest, but I am trying to be dramatic.
I had a similar experience this year. I was meant to travel to Nigeria from Germany through London and yes people before you call me stupid, I checked the requirements for transiting through London and I could transit through the UK because I had a D-type visa for Germany which is part of the EU. I checked the rules before buying the ticket and I was ecstatic because I meet the requirements for flying with BA which was the cheapest ticket available (As you can tell by now, I am frugal af). On the day of my flight, I walked confidently to my gate to check in and drop off my luggage only to be denied entry to the flight again. “What was it this time?” you might ask, apparently there are two types of D-type EU visas and I did not have the right kind of D-type visa. Bear in mind that the GOV.UK Website (which is where I checked for the transit rules) did not indicate that there were two types of D-type visas. This time, I did not cry (I actually laughed, mini physiological breakdown perhaps) because I checked the rules and I could honestly say that I tried, unlike the first case in which I blamed myself for not researching the rules and so I really beat myself up about my negligence and felt like a downright idiot. After not being able to travel with BA, I quickly booked a flight with Turkish Airlines (no transit visa required) and was in Nigeria the next night.
Besides the airport transit visa requirements for Nigerian Passport Holders, there is also the issue of plain disrespect at various passport controls. The way the policemen or customs officers scrutinise your visa when it is in a Nigerian Passport is so appalling and disheartening. In several instances, my passport had been raised up to determine the authenticity of my visa. I feel like I am being judged for being Nigerian. After going through this at various passport controls, It made me wonder why they stopped calling some countries “third world countries” to become more politically correct. I mean, if you are going to treat the citizens from those countries like third world citizens, then don’t bother changing the demeaning adjective used for those countries.
The Nigerian Foreign Ministry should try to limit the restrictions that Nigerian Passport Holders like myself face when travelling around the world. I don’t mean visa-free (which would be very very nice, but who am I kidding) but at least to remove the ridiculous airport transit visa requirement when travelling to Nigeria.
Thank you for reading