Nigeria - Drive to Abuja
Day 109 (22 January) – Nigerian driving
We were not looking forward to getting back on the road. The road from Abeokuta to Abuja is bad and we were apprehensive about the potential police checks. Sure enough, the police where completely shameless. Most didn’t even bother with good morning or some false accusation they just shouted “Give me something!”, “What do you have for me”, “Give me money”, or my personal favorite
Police: “Give me Dollars!”
Us: “We don’t have any dollars”
Police “Ach, ok, then give me Naira!”
Many of the locals, preferring not to enter into the discussions just crack their window and throw money out onto the road.
We wondered what the Nigerian Police Academy curriculum is. Our guess is a two week course that involves sewing your own uniform and some on the job training on how to shake down the general public and you get your badge. Of all the officials (and there are many!) the Police, hands down were the worst. One of our ‘tactics’ was to say that we were going to the next town. We did this with the thought that they may be slightly less likely to shake us down if they thought we were staying in their town and may therefore have a chance to talk poorly about them to the locals. We made a list of towns we would pass through on the drive and crossed them off as we went along. The police stopped us shortly before Jebba. We said “We are going to Jebba! We hear it is a great tourist destination and we are eager to have a look around”. Well, Jebba is a complete shit hole. It is nothing more than a dirty truck stop with some petrol shacks and prostitutes. A great tourist destination indeed! We were never questioned on our route or destination tough; the greedy eyes were distracting the minds of the police….
The right hand drive (RHD) was an issue that day as well. I think it is such an issue because it is illegal in Nigeria (to import a RHD) and indisputable. One guy was so excited he interrupted his shakedown of another driver and came running shouting “Right hand drive! Right hand drive!” Stanley said you could see it in his eyes, the ‘we’re having meat tonight’ look. We found ourselves quoting the Nigerian National Transportation Guidelines (“the original 2004 version and amended in 2007”) with great authority and deference. Obviously no official has read them. Miraculously, we managed to avoid any fines (or worse) but once again were exhausted by the time we reached Bida.
With Niels’ car, being LHD, officials could use the Nigerian National Transportation Guidelines for illegal importation of RHD. So the new Reason for police arrest became: “Where is your Nigerian license plate?!” We can add it to the list.
Day 110 (23 January) – Driving to Abuja
The road from Bida to Abuja is filled with not just potholes but craters. It was Sunday and the various shakedown crews either get started later or take the day off and we were only stopped by one guy wearing a colonial bell-hop outfit. He asked for our car papers and we blathered on about going to Abuja and which did he think was the best route. That distracted him from his original train of thought and we were soon on our way.
Arriving in Abuja on a Sunday means no traffic at all. It was dead quiet on the streets. Even all the traffic police at the major crossings had a day off. Except… there is always an exception… Two guys on a moped pulled over Niels. Stanley and Julia hurrying away not too be involved with their RHD, which would for sure make things worse. One of the two guys was wearing a dark blue uniform (probably police) and the other normal cloths and a reflecting yellow vest with the word ‘Police’ on it.
The reflecting yellow vest guy asked for the drivers license and after looking at them asked: “Why did you ignore the police at the junction?!”
Niels: “Sorry, I did not see any police. Where was this?”
Reflecting yellow vest: “The police at the previous intersection! It is an offence! You have to pay a fine. The fine is N 15.000!”
Niels: “That’s a lot. And all the intersections are without police. Where was the police guy?”
Reflecting yellow vest: “The police is there! You have to pay the fine or we can settle it right here and you pay only N12.000.”
Aha! These guys are just working on the side…
Niels said: “OK, if I made an offence I have to pay a fine. I showed you my ID, can I see yours?”
Reflecting yellow vest: “Uhhh… My ID is at the office but you can see I am with the police by my vest.”
Niels: “You have to understand that I cannot just pay anyone, I first have to see your ID. Let’s go to the office to pick it up. But please drive slowly, I am not from around here.”
It all went back and forth and the reflecting yellow vest discussed with the uniform, who in the meantime pulled over a Chinese couple, after which the uniform came over saying: “If someone makes an offence we pull them over to correct them. We only give out warnings to make the streets safer.”
Niels: “But your colleague asked for money without having any ID!”
Uniform: “Did he? No we only give warnings.”
Niels: “Thank you. Do you know how to get to the Sheraton Hotel?”