Read / lees in : Nederlands
Still a bit hung over from the epic festivities in Togo I continued to Cotonou, the capital of Benin. I had to make a short stop there to get the last couple of visas (Congo Brazzavile, Gabon and Congo Kinshasa) I needed. So I could then drive all the way to Zambia, where Lucía will
satisfy join me, without further delay. The day after, I presented myself at the border with Nigeria. I’ve seen quite a lot of border crossings in my life, but this one is without equal. What a chaos. The whole premises is unpaved, and because it had rained a number of cars and lorries were stuck in de mud. Blocking all traffic. Therefore everybody had to drive around through a slum, of which the people had come up with the idea to levy toll (smart thinking!). Fortunately diplomats like myself were let through free of charge. Because of the diversion the whole workflow was disrupted however, because you wouldn’t pass the right counters automatically anymore to get your paperwork done.
Nonetheless I managed to find all the right counters and get the red tape done. Everybody, either with or without uniform, asked for money though. But I’ve come to the point where I’m finding that completely normal. Once done at the border I joined the flow of traffic to Lagos, about a hundred kilometers from there. I thought I was back in India for a moment. Complete with the garbage dumps on either side of the pothole filled road. But mostly because of the tuktuks and tata’s which are specialised in clogging up traffic. However, the Nigerians have added an element. Namely a checkpoint every two hundred (200!) meters. You should imagine yourself such a checkpoint as nothing more than a small group of men, sometimes not even uniformed, at the side of the road carrying AK47’s and demanding money. But once again I got lucky. A car in front of me drove along with the window rolled down, and the driver threw some money out at every checkpoint. Because of this I could, just like I am used to at the barrier in parking garages, pull up after him while the officers were picking up the money.
The police is your friend
In the end I spent about nine hours to travel the one hundred and twenty kilometers between Cotonou and Lagos. And in the rest of Nigeria the checkpoints too cause a lot of delay. Up to the border with Cameroon you’ll pass around one hundred and seventy five (WTF!) of them. At first I was kinda irritated by them, until I realised that all of the officers were extremely friendly. They approach your car with a big smile, whilst saying ‘you are welcome sir’ all the time, and really only want to have a chat with you. Not even once they tried to invent some infraction or fuck me over in any other way. Although they did often ask: ‘What do you have for your boy?’. I immediately thought they wanted money, but found out that they’re happy with everything. A couple of eggs, a bottle of water, a sachet if instant coffee etc. I heard those guys are paid about fifty euros per month to stand there in the weather, to
harass everybody keep everybody safe. And if you don’t give them anything, they remain very friendly, wishing you a pleasant day and safe journey. So if you ever happen to drive through Nigeria, and I never thought I would say this during my lifetime: ‘Bring some goodies for the police.’