Many Nigerians recount their travel experiences in Cape Verde, a West African country that appears to discriminate against Africans.
It was supposed to be a week of reunion to make up for lost time between two lovebirds, but it turned out sour.
Oke Osharode and his wife had lived apart for a while, but in May 2012 they decided to reunite in Boa Vista, one of Cape Verde’s ten islands.
Mr. Osharode flew from Lagos on May 4 and was due to connect to Boa Vista two days later after stopovers in Dakar and Praia, capitals of Senegal and Cape Verde. His wife was due to land on the island from the UK on the same day.
âHis own flight from the UK and the cost of the hotel was Â£ 1,223,â Mr Osharode told PREMIUM TIMES, providing details of their travel schedule.
He had booked an economy double room at an all inclusive hotel in Boa Vista for seven nights. They were ready to have fun.
The Nigerian, who currently resides in the UK, said the trip was reversed when he arrived in Praia on May 5 and was chosen by immigration officials to be interviewed.
âThey asked for a BTA in cash (basic travel allowance). I presented my all inclusive hotel and flights booked and fully paid plus â¬ 150 in cash and a bank card equivalent to â¬ 200.
“But the officer said he was unsure of the authenticity of my vacation reservation and had me locked in a waiting room for referral the next day to Dakar.”
The former head of the microfinance bank said further efforts to verify his papers were not made before his expulsion.
In the detention room, he saw more Nigerians who had been detained and banned from entering the archipelago, a West African country.
âThis whole trip was meant to be fun as my wife and I wanted it as a make-up before our family reunion in the UK. Unfortunately, it turned sour.
“When my wife got the information she was unable to undertake the trip at that point, it was too late to claim reimbursement for her flights and the hotel booked was costing us over Â£ 1,223.”
When it was clear that Enyindah Okwakpam, 31, would be leaving Nigeria for the first time, he pinched himself to be sure he wasn’t dreaming.
The prospect of having his blank passport stamped for the first time got him so excited that he started preparing for the December 2020 vacation in Sao Vicente, another island in Cape Verde, since September.
While planning, the archipelago neighbor was locked down due to the new coronavirus.
Struck by Fear of COVID-19, the authorities of the country located in the central Atlantic Ocean, imposed a strict entry ban. This has generated income from the tourism and travel industry, which accounts for a quarter of the country’s GDP, nose dive.
In 2019 alone, there were some 820,000 registered tourists, for a country of around 500,000 inhabitants.
So when the country eased its lockdown in October 2020, not only was it supposed to trigger an economic rebound, it made Mr. Okwakpam jump with joy.
âI was ready for my trip,â he recalls. “I had â¬ 1000 in cash on me and also my bank statement showing my bank balance with more cash.”
On December 12, aboard a two-headed flight from Lagos stopping in Casablanca, Morocco, he arrived in Praia the next morning.
The Nigerian who now lives in The Gambia began to feel uneasy when he was approached by two female immigration officials who ignored those who had preceded him in the screening queue.
“I gave one of them my passport, my PCR test and my yellow fever card. She immediately returned my PCR test without looking at it. She left with my passport, came back a few minutes later. and told me to follow her, âMr. Okwakpam said.
At the office, a senior official whose label bore Edar asked Mr. Okwakpam about the purpose of his visit, to which he replied that it was for tourism and volunteering.
“He said the country was not open for tourism until January or February (2021), and for that reason he would fire me immediately.”
His claim about Mr. Edar’s submission fell flat.
“He told me that ‘your people are coming for school, and if you are coming for that, we will let you in. But for tourism, no. We are not open to tourism because of the pandemic. “”
He was deported without his luggage, which he recovered a week later. Depressed, he returned home, but determined to return the following month.
Crossed out again
On January 8, Mr. Okwakpam flew back to Cape Verde. Her goal this time was to volunteer for a non-profit organization.
As before, he had prepared his papers, including his return tickets, the PCR result, the Nigerian police character report.
He also had his NIF number (NÃºmero de IdentificaÃ§Ã£o Fiscal, loosely translated as Foreigner’s Identity Number) which is the Tax Identification Number in Cape Verde.
After checking his documents, he was put aside again and was told that a document that was to be drafted by the head of the NGO “stating that she would be fully responsible for me” was missing.
“I was again told to go back to the plane and I was taken to collect my luggage this time,” he said.
The NGO official told her “that she had never given this document to anyone coming to volunteer before. She also confirmed that I was her first African volunteer. The others were Europeans over the years. “.
He was expelled alongside a Senegalese and three Nepalese. He had to part with a few euros before his passport was handed over to him.
Cape Verde’s relations with the rest of Africa
A cluster of ten volcanic islands (Santo AntÃ£o, SÃ£o Nicolau, Brava, Santa Luzia, Maio, Sal, Boa Vista, Santiago, Fogo, SÃ£o Vicente), Cape Verde is flanked by Senegal at 570 km.
Tony Chiedozie, a Nigerian-Cape Verde who is fluent in English, Portuguese and Creole, offered a glimpse into what it’s like to be black in Cape Verde.
He had lived in the country since 2001 and became a citizen five years later due to his residence, but returned to Nigeria in October.
The homeless, who works as a business development consultant and lives in Enugu, said he had experienced firsthand how locals expressed stronger allegiance to Europeans and whites than to Africans.
Due to interracial marriage, the modern population of Cape Verde is largely a mixture of African descent and European descent called mulattoes (or mestiÃ§os).
Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Angola, Panama, Guyana and Jamaica are among the countries with large populations mulattoes.
“Cape Verdeans hate being called mulattoes,” said Mr Chiedozie. “They hate to think of themselves as Africans. They are so racist it makes me angry.”
How derogatory to call black nigga, Cape Verdeans call blacks “manjako“(an African community to which Cape Verdeans were exposed for the first time).
Mr Chiedozie said that “PÃ© rachado” (meaning cracked or helpless feet) is another derogatory word used by nationals to describe the predominantly black population like those on the islands of Santiago and Mayo.
Nonetheless, Mr. Chiedozie said, “they relate well to blacks among their own people,” as well as to other Portuguese-speaking African nations.
“I was not treated badly. It’s because I speak languages ââand carry myself with dignity and demand respect because I give it. It hurts me to be able to be treated well and not others.”
This, he says, worked for him when he sought to be nationalized. Without it, “immigration might never give you that passport.”
He nevertheless criticized the behavior of some Nigerians in the country that “I found myself not revealing my identity”.
The European quest for Cape Verde
Although geographically part of Africa, Cape Verde, a former colony of Portugal until 1975, moved to get out of of the AU and ECOWAS, while seeking closer links with the European Union.
The government of Praia ad in September 2006, its intention to limit access to its territory to other West African nationals.
The island nation also filed a proposal for a “special status” for ECOWAS, which will exempt it from the status of “full member” of the West African bloc.
Unlike Morocco, another African country which once searched to become European, there was no formal rejection of Cape Verde’s European candidacy, nor political recognition.
Nonetheless, if history is anything to follow, Cyprus, an island nation geographically in Asia, has shown that persistence in joining another continental bloc is possible as the country is now member of the Council of Europe and the EU.
One too many?
Over a fortnight ago, a Nigerian development expert, Teni Tayo, recalled how she, alongside three other Nigerians, was expelled by the authorities in Cape Verde while white foreign travelers were allowed to enter.
Her story sparked a spark of experiences shared by other African nationals who accused Cape Verde to have racist tendencies.
All the people interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES with this experience stated that they had filed complaints with the Nigerian and Cape Verdean authorities, but did not obtain any results.
They all said they were still haunted by their experiences.
A representative of the ECOWAS office in Cape Verde declined to comment. An email sent to the Cape Verde Airport Authority did not receive a response. Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission spokesperson Balogun Abdulrahman said the commission takes complaints seriously.
It has been almost ten years since Osharode couples were harassed in Cape Verde, but it is still fresh in their minds as it was yesterday.
âWe are still grieved by the loss even though we have lived incredibly better since then,â Mr. Osharode said in an email response.
Mr Okwakpam said his experience had since led him to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whenever he was in the vicinity of police or immigration officers or thought to travel to the country. foreigner by road or by plane.
All those interviewed vowed to keep speaking out, hoping it might be psychological therapy for themselves and also travel advice for other compatriots.