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Posts Tagged ‘unforeseen obstacles’

After extensive online research and going to the embassies in person, I have discovered that it is extremely difficult (I don’t want to say impossible, because nothing is impossible in Nigeria) for a non-Nigerian resident to obtain a Ghanaian visa in Nigeria. If you have a resident visa it is possible, but those of us without resident visas cannot obtain a Ghana visa from the Ghana High Commission in Nigeria. You have to apply for a visa online and pick it up at the point of entry to Ghana. If you do that, you should absolutely fly to Ghana from Nigeria. I would advise against any non-Nigerian person in Nigeria from traveling to Ghana by road because 1) the transit visas you need for Togo and Benin will cost N 17,000 (about $130) total (N 7,000 for Togo and N 10,000 per two entries in Benin) and 2) for all of the hold-up and wahala (problems) you will face at each border. Even my Nigerian host family said the border patrol gives them a hard time.

One of my friends said he, a Nigerian, and his white girlfriend tried to go by road and were forced to turn back because of the constant questioning and hold up they met at each police check point. He said they could spend up to 45 minutes at each one waiting while the Togolese officers scrutinized his girlfriends passport and travel documents. It’s either you stand your ground and wait out the questions or give in and pay an unknown amount, he warned. The latter could get expensive and they still might not let you pass. Speaking fluent French would be to your great advantage. So if you are a white person coming to Nigeria and plan to travel to Ghana while you are here, make sure to obtain the visa in your home country to avoid all of this disappointment that I have experienced.

One option for foreign travelers getting around West Africa is finding someone with connections (which is not hard) to help you get an ECOWAS passport. The Economic Community of West African States is a group of 15 West African countries that works to build joint economic development in the region. ECOWAS passport holders can travel to any of the participating countries without a visa. Ghana and Nigeria are ECOWAS countries. From what my local sources have told me, all you need is about N 20,000 ($133), passport photos and pam, you have a golden ticket to West Africa. The passport would be legitimate and approved. As afore mentioned, anything is possible in Naija. As for the questioning you would get as a white person holding a Nigerian passport at the border, I am unsure, but at least you have the documentation.

One thing is for sure, this holiday season, I am staying in Nigeria.

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On Friday, June 11–three days before I was supposed to leave for Nigeria–I received devastating news: my summer study abroad program at the University of Ibadan is cancelled. The feelings of shock, denial, sadness and complete disappointment I felt were overwhelming. Abike, another girl in my program told me over the phone as I was driving home from saying goodbye to all of my friends in Madison. I almost had to pull off the road. I felt everything I planned for for semesters slip away in a matter of minutes. Earlier that day I had received an email with a description of the host family I would be meeting a couple days later–Abike’s news did not seem real because we had no answers. Answers did not come until four days later when my Yoruba professor, Antonia Schleicher sent us an e-mail with a semblance of what had been going on behind the scenes.

The major players in the equation that led to the cancellation are the University of Wisconsin and National Security Education Program. NSEP sponsors the Language Flagship, which is the fellowship the seven other students and I have that was (and someday will be) sending us to Nigeria. Like I said in the video, members of NSEP and UW administrators had a meeting on Friday June 11–the same day I received info about my host family–where UW said it would not send any UW students to Ibadan under UW auspices because they felt the situation there is unsafe. There are a few perplexing things about this decision. First, why did they wait until 3 bloody days before to decide? I still don’t have a good answer to that question, but I am investigating. Also, there is the question on why UW had the power to do this. Since May, we knew the year-long program in Nigeria was not a UW sponsored study abroad program because they said they did not have enough time to evaluate it. We were all set to withdraw from UW and go to Nigeria planning to transfer credits from University of Ibadan to Bryn Mawr College, then to UW. The plan was legitimate and UW even said it would work fine. So then why now are they telling us we cannot go because of safety concerns when we would not be insured by UW anyway? NSEP really wants to see this program happen and so they made an agreement with UW that essentially says ‘OK, we’ll cancel the program for now and give you a month to do your investigation into University of Ibadan to determine that it is safe and people live well there.’ So depending on what UW says come July 16 we could be on a plane to Nigeria within a couple weeks or be waiting indefinitely for NSEP to figure out a way to get us there through another university.

I was depressed at first and unable to find happiness. A week later, I am doing much better and my spirits are high. I’ve reckoned that another few months in the U.S. is not all that bad.

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