We made it to the airport in good time. We the travellers that is. Our bags hadn’t arrived yet. Well, some of them had. The rest of them were in a second car. Five people travelling, 8 pieces of luggage, we were travelling light, but we all couldn’t fit into the one car. So we waited at the airport for the other car to arrive. It was pouring with rain, my Etisalat phone that had conked out on me in the village for the duration of our long four day stay decided to do the same thing again. I couldn’t call the driver, and I guess he couldn’t reach me either. Network problem. Fortunately, I ran into a new friend of mine who lent me her non-Etisalat phone. Problem solved. We were reunited with our bags.
And so the process started. Bags weighed. Verified. And then customs inspection. To make sure you’re not smuggling anything illegal out of the country.
First bag unzipped. Loads of ankara outfits tumble out. ‘Seems like you are taking all of Nigeria with you’ comes a grumble from the inspecting officer. I smile as I try to shove the clothes back into the very full case.
Second bag has cartons of indomie noodles. I remove the sealing strip on the box so she can see the contents. She waves it through.
She goes through the next bag cursorily. I hold my breath. My parents’ egusi seeds are wrapped up in a towel. I know they might hassle me if they find it. I know that if I had ground them, I would not have had any problems. But they do not know my mother. She has requested for whole egusi, not ground, and it is more than my job’s worth to take anything other than what what specified back to her. She does not find the egusi. I exhale slowly.
Other bags go through,including the one that has about 10kg of Ijebu gari in it, no wahala.
The final bag is THE bag. It has a three-quarter full keg of coconut oil in it. I have frozen the oil so it won’t leak in transit. It has my smoked fish in it. It has my dried king prawns, ground crayfish and ground ogbono. It has my frozen peppered snails in it. N and my aunty got me the snails. J’s cook peppered some of them for me. It is THE bag.
The inspecting officer passes it to the head honcho and tells her ‘This one.’ The madam at the top looks in the bag and says ‘You Londoners! Okay you have to give me something otherwise this bag is not going.’
I have to state categorically here, that I am fundamentally opposed to the notion of giving or receiving bribes, and I do not consider it acceptable under normal circumstances. Nigeria obviously falls outside this category. Take that as you will.
Back to my madam. She says ‘You have to give me 5000 naira.’ I do a quick mental calculation, that’s roughly £25. Gell no! There’s no way I’m letting go of that much. So I smile at her and explain that I can’t afford that.
I am holding a pen in my hand, and I am stunned to hear her say ‘Okay, give me your pen.’ I got this pen from my aburo/omo mi Deronk. She gave it to me after I shamelessly begged for it. The pen and I have been together for about three weeks. And now madam wanted it. Jell no! I smile and explain that it was a gift, and I can’t let it go. She eyes me in disdain.
‘Give me your belt’. I hear the words from a distance as I am sure my ears are deceiving me. I look down at my belt. It is holding my jeans in place around my waist. I have had this belt for about five or six years. It is one of two belts I own. It is a Tommy Hilfiger belt. Yes, I admit it. I love Tommy Hilfiger, it is about the only designer brand I can afford. For now. I am attached to this belt, in more ways than one. ‘My trousers will fall off my waist’ I protest mildly. ‘Ehn, take another one from inside your case’ she retorts. ‘I only brought this one’ I explain. ‘You London people are very stingy’ she mutters in Yoruba.
‘Everything you are carrying is legal by the way’ she offers. ‘However, I can take you to the office and make you fill out some forms, and waste your time’ she continues, in conversational tones. ‘How much can you give me?’
‘1000 naira?’ I offer. ‘I reject that in Jesus name!’ is her emphatic response. Her sidekick seated beside her repeats the sentence for added emphasis. I gape at her in disbelief. I can’t believe that she is invoking the name of my Saviour whilst trying to extort money from me. And then I ask her ‘Ki le se so yen na? You reject it in Jesus name’?’ She looks a bit sheepish as she realises the incongruity of her declaration. We both burst out laughing, but I am not amused. We’ve already spent over 15 minutes on the examining table, and we still have to hand over our passports, check in for the flight formally, etc. I am tired, and just want it over with. I want THE bag too. And so I give her 2000 naira, she wishes me a safe journey, and I move on, with my contingent.
It’s smooth sailing after that. The immigration guy tries to shake us down for money, and I smilingly tell him, we are out of naira. He tells me to go ahead with the children, and asks T to wait behind. I skip off merrily with our girls. T has no money on him at all, the wallet is in my possession. We whizz through the barriers before he realises his mistake. T rejoins us a short while later, and we grin at each other.
Thanks for stopping by :).