To avoid having to go through the chaotic Lagos border control team Lipstick decided to go up the borderline between Benin and Nigeria and enter Nigeria close to the Benin town Ketou.
The trip out of town in Cotonou went relatively easy as Lipstick was already on the road by 7am trying to avoid early morning rush hour.
Some 50km out of town the road deteriorated quiet badly as there is a lot of road construction and deviations going on. Lipstick passed numerous trucks lying on their sides or having broken down in the middle of the road. For the next 100km Lipstick spend almost 3 hour on the road trying to reach the right hand turnoff close to Abomey.
After a hellish drive trying to avoid potholes oncoming trucks and truck lying on the site of the road Lipstick finally reached a town called Bohicon – not far from Abomey and from there started to approach Ketou close to the Nigerian Border.
Some 15 km after Ketou and driving through another small village out of the blue a sign appeared
“Welcome to Nigeria” and sitting right behind there in a little hut one could see some uniformed officials who were approached
“Is this the Nigerian border post?”
“Yes indeed how can we help? Have you been to the Benin border post to check out?”
The team was guided some 1km back from where they came from to anon-assuming office with a Benin flag. On entering the office the seemingly bored official offered the team a seat and proceeded to put the exit stamp into the 2 passports.
Carnet de passage? No he has no authority to stamp this document this must be done by customs department which is situated on the exit site of Ketou some 15 km back.
So Lipstick went back into Benin (passports already showed that they exited Benin) and again a totally empty Customs office was found with a very friendly officer who stamped the Carnet within minutes after having been approached to do so.
Back to the Border, straight to the Nigerian post where 3 extremely friendly officials now interrogated the team about their travel, where from, where to and why…
It was a pleasure to hear an official talking in perfect English after all the French of the countries having been passed in the last few days.
Having inspected the motor car and its contents the main official ordered a young motor biker to drive in front of Lipstick and show them the office of the Nigerian Passport Control.
Team Lipstick was extremely surprised by the friendliness of these officials and followed the motorbike through a small village and arriving at a very empty looking office.
Again – no other traffic in sight – the team entered the office and were greeted by an elderly man without uniform sitting behind a small desk in a huge office.
A small form had to be filled the contents of which the official copied by hand into a book without much talking. Then the big stamp came out and the procedure was over and done with
Carnet de passage? No- this needs to be done at an office situated opposite the old man’s kingdom and the team was guided there and found the office to be completely unoccupied.
Some loud “Hello” Hello” from the team and a young Nigerian came around the corner explaining that he is only the deputy custom’s officer without any signing power and that we should wait for his boss to come back.
“How long will this take? Where is your boss?”
“Sorry I am not sure how long because he went to the close – by mosque for his daily prayer”
Waiting for the custom official at the Nigeria border
Looking at the faces of the astounded team members the young official then phoned a friend who came to the office with a bike which was then used by the deputy chief to obviously go to the mosque to alert his boss that there are customers waiting in his office.
30 minutes later the master of the local customs team arrived with a big smile and immediately proceeded to fill out the Carnet seemingly knowing exactly how to go about this.
It was indeed amazing that throughout these procedures there was not a single other car or person wanting to go through either passport control or customs control and team Lipstick had the whole Border Control administration for themselves.
Team Lipstick can only recommend this border post to any other overland travellers for both ease and friendliness of staff.
Some more guidance in directions by local people and Lipstick was on the way to Abeokuta and experienced the state of security that exists in Nigeria.
Lipstick was stopped by 23 (twenty-three!) street blocks occupied by various departments of Nigeria such as
The SSS – state security system her one has to fill out a form after which an interrogation takes place regarding where from where to and why
Customs departments – inspection of the car and checking the carnet de passage.
Police department – where to where from why?
Army checkpoint – passports, car papers contents of car
Traffic police – fire extinguisher, warning triangle, drivers licence
All these procedures were done in an unbelievable friendly manner like:
“Welcome to Nigeria. Did you have a nice journey so far? We are here to look after your safety!
Wow you are travelling a long distance – we wish you a good time in Nigeria!!”
Andre and Willy were extremely astounded by such friendliness and being able to communicate in English and chatting about the world cup soccer created a real feeling of being most welcome in a place which the team thought would be more harsh than the previous countries visited so far.
The unfortunate item of course was the time spent at the various offices which stretched the originally planned 2 hours to close to 4 hours.
Abeokuta is no small town at all as it is the capital of the Ogun province some 80 km north of Lagos and having an occupation of over 350.000 people. It took the team over an hour to find a guesthouse and by that time the game between Germany and France was already over but the team was updated on route through WhatsApp by friends and relatives.
First stop in Nigeria – Lipstick
In summary for the day- the extreme friendliness of all the officials as well as the staff at the guest house came as a huge surprise as the team expected a more hostile approach to foreigners bearing the recent terrorist attacks in Nigeria in mind..