United States (US) singer Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, popularly known as ‘Akon’, on Tuesday talked his way through the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and entered Nigeria without a visa, SaharaReporters found out.
The songwriter, who was transiting to the US from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, missed a connecting flight at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Nigeria. Rather than stay at the Nigeria immigration lounge of the airport, Akon and his crew refused and insisted they would go into the city to lodge in a hotel, an action that is against the immigration laws of the country.
Akon and his crew were claimed to be backed by the US Consulate, and they insisted the rapper would never stay at the immigration lounge where travellers who found themselves in the musician’s situation usually stayed.
In a video, which captured how the whole scenario played out, Akon and the US Consulate prevailed on the officials of Nigeria Immigration Service and they were illegally allowed to step outside of the airport, and lodge at Sheraton Hotel.
In a hot discussion, which lasted for about two hours, Akon and his crew were bent on leaving the airport to a hotel but the immigration officers at the airport maintained it couldn’t be allowed.
However, when the US consulate interfered in the matter, the immigration officers allowed Akon and his crew leave the airport and stay in a hotel but their passports were withheld. An undertaking was also written to ensure that the artiste and his crew were brought back to the airport.
Speaking over the phone, a Delta Line official who was simply identified as Henry was heard telling the US consulate that the artiste could not stay at the airport lounge.
“If they have to leave the airport, we have to hold their passport. I have some of the passes here, some US performers who were transiting from Malabo through my flight but unfortunately, the flight left tonight and we are asking that we take them to a hotel from the US consulate so that we bring them back to the airport tomorrow then your men can have their passports until tomorrow when they can get out of the country,” he said.
“The US Consulate confirms that they cannot stay at the airport, they want them to go to a hotel so that tomorrow they can bring them down to the airport.”
In another call, Henry also said that the consulate spoke with the artiste and they were bent on having their passport with them.
“The consulate spoke with the artiste and the team and they are bent on having their passport with them and I’m trying to get them out of here,” he said. “The Immigration authority tries to keep their passport because they don’t have Nigerian visa. However, if they want to go to town, I can guarantee them (NIS) that they will bring them back tomorrow.”
Another official at the airport who was involved in the case, Ibrahim Yahaya said that Akon, together with his team, initially agreed to wait at the airport lounge but later decided otherwise, stating that they needed to feel safe with their passport in their custody.
After about two hours, the immigration officer accepted, and Akon and his team were seen leaving the airport to lodge in a hotel while their passports were withheld.
SaharaReporters called the United States Embassy in Nigeria thrice to confirm if the US consulate insisted that the artiste should not stay in the lounge. However, the calls came to nought, as our correspondent was first put on hold for about 150 seconds while on another occasion, our correspondent was put on call machine that responded: “you have been forwarded to a voicemail system however the person at 4064 does not subscribe to this service, a valid attended member has not been specified… your session cannot be continued at this time, please try again later.”
Similarly, when contacted, an official of the Nigeria Immigration Service insisted that she would not verify or comment on the matter if our correspondent would not reveal how the information about Akon was got.