Hard times await Nigerian football fans hoping to be part of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Cote d’Ivoire early next month following reports that there is a high level of extortion passengers traveling along the west coast for legitimate reasons go through.
The 34th edition of the AFCON tournament starts January 13th to February 11th, 2024 and Super Eagles of Nigeria are one of the prime teams tipped to be on the podium on the final day.
With the high cost of local and international air travel, thousands of Nigerian football fans have concluded plans to journey along the West Coast not just to save travel costs but to enjoy the cruise along the coastal line from the Seme border to the final destination which is Cote d’Ivoire for the premier continental football tournament.
With many tourist organizations already engaging Nigerians with different tour packages over two months ago and the bolstering of Nigeria Football Supporters Club who had revived its other chapters in the neighboring countries, it is expected that hundreds of thousands of football lovers will want to be in Abidjan, the capital city, where Super Eagles will play the host nation in one of the Group A matches.
However, an unidentified Nigerian who is based in Canada and posted his ordeal on social media yesterday warned that those who have made plans to hit Abidjan via the same route should prepare for the high level of extortion unless the Federal Government moves fast and check unscrupulous activities of Nigeria Custom Service officials at the border posts.
In a short video posted on different social media, he narrated how flew into Nigeria from Canada but opted to continue the second leg to Abidjan by road.
“Many Nigerians would be forced to part with their hard-earned money because the border checks extortion is on the high side. I want to commend the Minister of Internal Affairs for a job well done so far as regards obtaining a traveling passport but attention needs to be focussed on the borders to guide against unnecessary extortion at all the checkpoints.
“Holding a valid Ecowas passport is not a guarantee for smooth passage and we all know this problem has been on for a long time but it has hit the rooftop going by the high fee individual will have to cough out as a Nigerian plying that route for a legitimate reason,” he narrated.
Under the guise of using the roadblocks and checkpoints to checkmate smuggling activities and providing security along the expressway and around the Seme border and its environs, security agents including officials of the Nigeria Customs and men of the Nigeria Police Force had been allegedly subjecting unsuspecting members of the public to traumatizing experiences all in a bid to extort them of their hard-earned money.
“After I had paid 5,000 CAF about N10,000 at the Cote d’Ivoire border and even inside the country we were still made to pay the same amount several times and we were told it just a retaliation of the ordeal their citizens past through at the Nigeria end of the route.
“The minister must do something now so that Nigerians coming to cheer Super Eagles and others going about their legitimate business will not encounter same ordeal.
“From my projection, I paid over N120,000 equivalent, and what this means is that with many Nigerian fans already planning to hit the road before the tournament gets underway in less than one month’s time, hundreds of dollars would have been extorted from innocent citizens,” he warned.
From Badagry to the Seme border alone, there are more than 50 roadblocks on the road and you will encounter close to 20 roadblocks returning to Badagry from Seme.
Interestingly, the majority of these illegal roadblocks are police checkpoints. The NCS also has more than the required roadblocks on the expressway. Other security agents also have roadblocks there.
The last time the tournament was hosted in West Africa was in 2008 in Ghana with the Pharaohs of Egypt as the winner after a lone-goal victory over the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the final match.
Cameroon staged the last edition which the Teranga Lions of Senegal won on penalties against Egypt.