03.08.2010 - 03.08.2010 28 °C
“I can help you get a Nigerian visa!” The words sounded sweet, but it wasn't the first time we had heard someone promise to help us to get the elusive document. But when Prince, a Nigerian living in Cotonou mentioned that he is friends with the ambassador, things started looking a little more promising. Only moments earlier, he had greeted the ambassador's wife, a guest at his Benin Independence Day Celebration Party at the Obama Beach in Cotonou. So he seemed to be telling the truth.
Eduardo and I looked at each other. Maybe this was our chance. Maybe it would work out this time. Lagos was among the top reasons why we had decided to come to West Africa, and once again it seemed our dreams would come true. Maybe.
Our hopes faltered pretty quickly, as the “ambassador” turned out to be someone called Daniel that perhaps worked at the Nigerian Embassy, but wanted $800 to help us get the visas. We offered $300, but Daniel declined. Alas, we were back to square one.
But, wait a second! During our “negotiations” with Daniel, we had gotten in touch with a lady in Lagos who had read my blog, and she offered to provide us with an invitation. With Eduardo's Peruvian passport (there's no Nigerian Embassy in Peru), and the invitation, we decided to try on our own.
If the Togolese visa officials are corrupt, wait until you meet the Nigerians. The huge man in a bright pink shirt was intimidating. His face convulsed in mixed expressions of anger, surprise and ridicule. He stood up and leaned forward towards us, threatening us with his entire being.
“Why didn't you get your visa in Peru?”
“There is no embassy there.”
“Who says there is no Nigerian embassy in Peru?”
“The Nigerian Government's Immigration web page”
“That's not true.”
“Yes it is.”
“Mr. Duarte, don't you know you can call the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out if there's a Nigerian embassy in Peru?”
“So how do you know there is no embassy in Peru?”
“So why didn't you go to the nearest embassy in another country?”
“It's in Brazil [we made this up, we didn't know]. That's on the other side of the continent. Like how far Ethiopia is from Benin. It's an eight hour flight.”
“Well, you should have gone there. I can't give you a visa. You don't fulfill the qualifications.”
After some begging, pleading, unscrupulous flattering, fake smiling, etc., our man said he can help us get a visa the unofficial way, but it's going to cost us. He just had to talk to some friends at the border to make sure it was OK. He was lying, of course, trying to make us sweat.
After a twenty minute break, Eduardo was called in by himself to negotiate the fee [“it's easier with men”], and we ended up paying only slightly more than we had offered to pay Daniel.
We finally did get our visas at the low cost of $320 (plus another $20 paid at the border, where we were interrogated in almost an identical fashion). Because the Nigerian visa process doesn't end when you get the visa at their corrupted embassy, you have to cross the border, too. And they have all the power to deny you entry, if they feel like it.
So, yes, you can get a Nigerian Visa if you really, really want it!