Traveling from Nigeria to neighbouring West African countries can be a nightmare especially if you do not know what to expect.
Nigeria is next door to Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and on to Cote D'ivoire and other West African countries. You can either cross the borders by yourself or your take the buses that pass through the West African coast of which you tend to pay almost thrice the amount sometimes.
If you want to experience crossing the border, especially Seme border, here are few tips that can help you.
Decide Your Destination: It is very important you decide where you want to go. If you are going to Benin Republic, then you are crossing just one border, which is either Seme or Idi Iroko. If you are going on to Togo, you will have to pass through the Hilla Condji border to get into Togo.
Pack Light: When packing your luggage, do make sure you pack light. You do not want to be lugging heavy boxes on foot or on a bike.
Have Your Passport And Yellow Card Ready: Do make sure you have your passport and the original yellow card. Yes, there are fake yellow cards, the ones that have been phased out of the system is still been sold to people. It is bright yellow in the front while the former one is pale yellow. There are spaces for your name and passport number in the front and had indented dot like your passport data page. It has a letter and six number inscription dotted in. You can get your original yellow card or confirm if the one you have is original at the Airport clinic by the toll gate between the International Airport and Local Airport. If you have a virgin passport, you will have to pay extra at the border.
Transport Route: Depending on where you are coming from, the best place to get cab or bus going to Seme border is Mile 2 if you are coming from Toll gate, Oworonshoki, Surulere, Ikeja, and other mainland axis asides from Iyana Ipaja. If you live around Iyana Ipaja axis, the best place to pass through is Idi-Iroko. You can get cars that takes four straight to Seme border for about N1,500.
Crossing The Border: You will be dropped off at a filling station on your right, there is a glo mobile shop there. You will find lots of bike men also known as Okada there. They are your best bet to cross the border, but you have to be careful. Make sure you ride a bike man that has id card. The bike man will take you to the different immigration stops for Nigeria and Benin and at each stop some amount of money is demanded from you. Depending on your negotiating skills you can get a reduced price.
What bothers me though is the fact that our ECOWAS passport ought to be our ticket to all the West African countries, without paying a dime, but this is not so. If you are so unlucky you can be delayed at seme border for almost two hours. The question is why do we like making life unbearable for our fellow Africans?
Do Not Take Pictures or Videos: Correct, please do not make it very obvious that you are taking pictures or videos, you have to be sneaky about it. It you are curious like I am you will take pictures of the contraptions called vehicles around the border area. It is a vehicle with the head of a vesper machine and a body with two wheels at the back.
Also if it is your first time you will see the long french bread also known as Baguette.
Change Your money at the border: Exchange rate at the border is always a bit better than in town. It also gives you money to buy mobile line, pay for transportation or any other transaction you want to do. Be careful and very observant of who you change money with.
Know a little French: Or go with someone that speaks a little french. This will help you a lot in case you run into issues with anyone.
Hope these few tips will help you take that adventure ride across the border.
Please Share Your Experience
Have you ever cross the border on your own or in a private car that is not a tour bus or public transport? Please do share your experience at any of the borders.
As a traveler one of my main goal this year is to document the Durbar festival in the northern part of the country.
I set out to ask my friend, Mohammed who lives in Bauchi State when the Durbar festival will be. We agreed on dates that I will come down to Bauchi.
DEFINING THE DURBAR FESTIVAL
Durbar festival is also known as the traditional Hawan Daushe Durbar. It is part of the activities marking the Eid-el-Fitr, also known as the 'small sallah'celebration. This is an annual festival celebrated after the 30 days fasting by the muslims globally.
The word 'Durbar' is of Persian origin and was first linked to ceremonial parades marking the proclamation of Queen Victoria as the Empress of colonial India in 1877. History has it that the the Hawan Daushe Durbar was introduced to the emirate during the reign of Muhammadu Rumfa in the 1400s. It is also noted that it still takes place in the states that were under the then Sokoto Caliphate with each state having its own emirates ruled over by an Emir.
Some of the States that still perform the Durbar festival are Katsina, Kano, Bauchi,and Kwara amongst other northern states.
In Nigeria,the first Durbar was held in 1911, subsequent ceremonies were held in 1924, 1925, 1948, 1960 and 1972. The Durbar festival was prominently present at the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, also known as FESTAC 77. Since then it has been celebrated once a year, after the muslims fast.
CELEBRATING THE DURBAR
The festival is usually observed a day after the 'sallah' day which sees the Emir riding on horse back with his title holders to pay homage to the State Governor and the prominent families in the State. This year's Durbar started on the 25th of June with the emir making his rounds across the State. You can sight small groups of horse riders Following him with the horses all dressed in colourful attires with some to match colours of their riders outfits. Sounds of gun shots echoed around where the group were. The shots were coming from dane guns that were being fired in celebration. The following day, the 26th was the main Durbar festival where every households will be represented.