Our plane landed in Nairobi that morning at exactly 5 minutes to 4 o’clock. I was nervous due to my previous experience in this same airport. I had arrived the airport a year ago and was detained by the Kenya Immigration because they believed my reason for visiting Kenya was not genuine. Several attempts to convince them I was genuine was not successful because I was not willing to pay a bribe one of the immigration officers requested from me. I was eventually deported.
One of the biggest lessons I learnt from the initial deportation was to always travel with a reason – even as a tourist. Even if am not traveling for any reason (tourism for instance), I should always have a ‘good’ reason that I must tender to immigration for the travel.
Abraham, was a Sierra Leonean that we boarded the same plane the very first time I was denied entry. He was allowed into Kenya because he had a piece of paper that showed an examination he was coming to write in Nairobi. I could not have faced deportation if I was to be travelling for an event or something documented.
The several times I had been in Nairobi and several other places I get visas on arrival, I do find an event online which I register for to attend and claim the event is the reason I am travelling to the destination. Note that registering for an event alone is not just enough, it is important to make hotel reservations and every other formality. Most times, I go the extra mile to write the organisers of the event to notify them am coming and also get their contact, just in case the immigration officers get very nosey.
In my case, I was actually coming for a youth event. My friend in Nigeria was organizing an event in Nairobi and had asked me to join the event as a resource person. I was already armed with a letter of invitation and was ready for whatever questions the immigration officers will have for me. We were in the immigration queue at the airport in a few minutes and I was sure among the first five to be attended to. I noticed one important thing. At that time, the immigration officers were fatigued and needed sleep. Even though they wanted to do their job, they were not thorough.
“Hey Mister, why are you in Kenya? One of the lady immigration officers asked me. I responded that I am a resource person for an event and I handed the piece of paper – the invite I had received from my friend. She glanced on the later and said, “Oh, this event again”. She requested for $50 and I was given the visa in less than 2 minutes.
This may be helpful to someone. Visiting countries where you think visa on arrival may be an issue or a destination that is known to have a troublesome immigration, it is better to arrive very late in the night. At such wee hours, most of them would be weak and the immigration process might not be stressful.
In a few minutes, I was outside and there was my friend Val, waiting with a driver to drive me home. It was indeed a miracle.
Val, had been a friend since my university days. He has been in Nairobi for a few months and was already winding up his master’s degree program. We drove straight home to his student apartment. This was going to save me a few cash I could have spent on a hotel. Now, this has some other sides to it. If you must stay with a friend, it is wise to spend two thirds of the total amount you could have spent on the hotel on them. You could buy something or pay for something. There are sometimes it makes no economic value staying with some types of friends. Once you arrive town, they will want to take you out to drink with them and you will end up paying. In such cases, it is better to stay in a hotel.
I was very happy to have successfully entered the country this time. The temperature was nice and the scenery was wonderful to behold. You could see some wild animals on the road side and most part of the city was clean.
Val informed me of an event that was scheduled for that afternoon at the Nigerian Embassy in Nairobi for 1pm that afternoon and invited to go for the event with him.
We left the house at around midday to the Nigerian Embassy in Nairobi. Several Nigerian students in Nairobi has suffered a lot in the hands of Kenyan Immigration. Students are arrested at the slightest altercation with a Kenyan and in most cases, they face deportation or imprisonment. Corrupt immigration officials feed fat from students who sometimes, they force to pay bribes running into tens of thousands of Kenya Shillings or they are threatened to be deported. The Association of Nigerian Students in Kenya, otherwise known as NANSKe was formed to help newly arrived Nigerian Students in Kenya settle down and also help older students who might be going through challenges with local authorities in Nairobi.
On our arrival, we were welcomed by a Consular Officer and several other diplomats at the embassy. Also present were Nigerian Students from different parts of the country. My friend who had invited me requested me to pretend I was from his school and I played very well. It was fun being there with several of them there. Several of them had been there for several years – running masters and doctorate degrees.
Let me also note at this point that several Nigerians and other foriegn nationals who live in Nairobi are involved in several dubious activities like cybercrimes, drugs, pornography and all sorts of things which is prohibited by the government of Kenya. These few bad eggs constitute the headache most genuine people face when they come to Kenya. They assume every young Nigerian is the same and subject them to the same unhealthy treatment.
There have also been cases where some people who pretend to be students enter into Kenya and involve themselves in fraud and dirty business. All these are part of the problem most innocent and hardworking Nigerian students who are studying in Kenya face.
One of the things I took away from the event that day was from the speech of the Association’s President which he called on the different students to seek out for projects they will embark on to improve their localities. This he believed will help put Nigeria and Nigerians in a better light in Kenya where majority of Kenyans believe that Nigerians are criminals and has nothing to offer. The embassy also promised to sponsor and support such genuine moves that could sell Nigeria positively to Kenyans and other East Africans.
Other events that day was entertainment, group photographs and networking. The embassy also gave a transport allowance of Ksh. 2000 (Two Thousand Kenya Shillings) to all the students who came for the event.
We left the event center and went straight home. My stay in Nairobi Kenya has just began on a very good note. On getting home, I finalized plans to attend the African Youth Talent Summit event which has been scheduled to hold the next day. The convener, who happens to be a good friend of mine had shortlisted me as one of the resource persons for the event.