As a Nigerian, living in an ECOWAS country, someone will expect to be at home because you are obviously not far from home but No this is what it actually means to Be a Nigerian Living in Ghana.
Not everybody has the ability to purchase a car in Ghana, as a result, most Nigerians drive their Nigerian Registered car in accordance with the ECOWAS treaty of May 1979. But the reverse is the case. From the Benin border, A Nigerian numbered car is already an oil well for Customs and police. While the people inside are free meals for Immigration officers. As a movie producer, I always need a big van that can carry all my requirements, since I cannot afford to but two for my different job Demographics I decided to shuttle my Nigerian numbered plate in between Nigerian and Ghana.
We got to the Benin Republic, all papers needed to cross the borders all paid for in Lagos before departure yet the Officers at the border insisted I give them 20,000 CFA for a reason that was not stated. After 3 hours of delay, we had no choice but to pay the said fee, no receipt was issued.
Fuming as I tried to explain to my driver why we are not supposed to pay any fee since we have paid for all ECOWAS documents and fees, he smiled as if I am from another planet. Oga na so dem dey do us oh, obviously he is used to it.
We got to Togo, an empty gallon which we used in buying petrol in Nigeria was seen in the trunk of my car, the border police insisted that we must pay 40,000 CFA. About 10 other Nigerian vehicles were stopped with each asked to pay not less than 20,000 CFA just for been a Nigerian.
My trying to explain the ECOWAS arrangements to them faced deaf ears as officers who have been communicating in English suddenly pretended they only understand french.
We paid the amount because we had no choice, I said to my self probably because they are french speaking countries, Ghana our brothers will do better, My driver smiled and said “ Make we reach there first “
We got to the Ghana Customs department, After checking my documents the gentleman said he is not sure I am the owner of the car, despite my name written on all original papers and had my driver’s license with the same name. I thought it was one of those jokes, after delaying us for another two hours, My driver came back to me, “ Oga give this people something make we go abeg, all this law no dey work here”.
It was there I knew this journey won’t be easy. We paid in Every checking point until we finally got to Accra.
I thought I was free but I lied, Every one seems to see you as a criminal on the street just because of the Nigerian Numbered car. The smallest police will stop you on the road and search you to your panties just because you are driving a Nigerian numbered car, The bus drivers and apprentice will insult you because they feel you do not deserve it.
My worst experience was on the day I had an interview on CITI TV, I was in a hurry, A policeman who is less than 30 years of age stopped me right under the traffic light at East Legon. He asked for my paper amid causing terrible traffic just to provoke that anger they expect from frustrating a Nigerian who they know is always in a hurry.
After checking my papers he looked at me and said as far as you are in my country, I can stop you anywhere and anytime to check your papers.
Pantang, Kasoa, Spintex road are hot zones because of the numbers of Nigerians living in these areas. Your driving a Nigerian Numbered car will get you stopped every day by the patrol teams. Some even follow you to your house, officers jumping a fence, some officers even went as far as calling the electricity company to switch off the light in the area to allow them to cut an electric fence of a Nigerian man living on the Dodowa road despite we have to pay 500 dollars for renewal of resident permit annually in an ECOWAS country.
You have to renew your car permit every 30 days with a penalty of 5 ghc (400 naira) every day if you default in payment.
During the lockdown, Most people could not go to the border to renew their papers, with many not knowing it can be renewed at the GRA office in Accra, no notice was sent to Nigerian drivers, it was not announced in any of the media platforms but they expected us to know anyway.
After the lockdown, I was driving to my office, After such a long time without driving the car, anyone would have forgotten about the validity of the documents.
I was stopped by police and custom preventives.
The looked at my papers, my undertaken has expired but my ecowas brown card, insurance, and other documents were all intact. All plead to allow one officer to follow me in going to fix the documents fell on deaf ears.
Another Nigerian driver who was arrested was allowed to go, He told me in igbo that I should give them money. One of the officers came into my car to ask me Oga how far, as soon as he saw my Press Tag, the story changed because they know this may be trouble. 15 cars including mine were taken to Tema custom warehouse. A document of detention was issued to me, right in my eyes, some of the cars were allowed to go, obviously, you know the reason right? I was the only Nigerian Arrested. I took the paper I went to GRA head office the next morning, only to meet with a custom woman who chased me out like a sick dog. “ Go and write a letter to the Assistant commissioner don’t come here and give me any wahala “. I went outside confused and thinking if I have met her before not to think of offending her. In that confused state, one of the junior officer came out and explained to me how to type the letter, Didn’t know that was the beginning of a terrible experience. I submitted the letter and was asked to do a followup. I was to and fro for two weeks every day, One morning I went to one of The officers Mr. Vincent, I told him how frustrated I was, his response was “ do you know the frustration your government is causing us for locking up the Nigerian borders? “ There and then I read the handwriting on the wall. I climbed up to assistance commissioner Preventive’s office where I met a lady Agnes who was very professional and helpful, she called all the relevant offices and told me the officer in charge has been admitted.
I had to go back not only to wait but to also pray and fast for the recovery of an officer so I can get my car. After a series of calls, the officer told me the battery of my car ran down so I have to bring a technician to go open a car that is detained in their custody. I had no choice I took the technician from Accra to Tema to go open the car. It took another one week of up and down before I finally got the Verdict of document compelling me to go pay duty for a car I already paid the duties in an ECOWAS country.
I was advised to go see the big man. After pleading for almost 30 minutes he asked me to go and come back the next day. It took another three days to get the file, I breathed a sigh of relief as my one-month trauma has finally ended but I lied.
I got back the next day June 1st to regularise my documents only to be handed an administrative fee of 1200 GHS excluding the normal fees I was supposed to pay, I got there at 9 am, with more than 50 Nigerians also there to fix their papers. I spoke to many who told me I am lucky, some have had to pay above 4,000 GHC an equivalent of 300,000 Naira. One told me his car was arrested with him, his mother’s wife and family. He has spent over 7,000 to no avail.
We were made to sit beside an abandoned toilet for more than 6 hours. When the document finally came, It was written that after paying all the fees, my car should still be detained until borders are opened before the car can be deported back. It took another two days to change what the woman called a mistake form the Commissioner, I had to call a staff of Nigerian Embassy, The president of South South (Mr. Tony ) community in Ghana, The ANC welfare officer ( Mr Emmanuel ) before I was finally handed a release letter to pick up my car.
This is what being a Nigerian citizen in an Ecowas State means to me.
I think it is high time the Nigerian Government put a check on what is happening to their citizens besides their borders. A Goat can’t use a Lion’s child for sacrifice even when it comes to the goat’s cage. If we are citizens of the giant of Africa then it should reflect on how we are been treated by people who directly benefit from our tax been used by the Nigerian government to fund ECOWAS.