Libreville, Gabon // Oct 2012
Gabon is a sparsely populated country with about 1.6million people. It is estimated that over 300,000 Nigerians live in Gabon. Most of its citizens work in the oil rich government establishments; while foreigners dominate the local business in areas of food, clothing, music sales, electronics, auto spare parts and taxi. These portraits explore the paradoxical stories of Africans living on another African soil with reported incidents of xenophobic discrimination and socio-political nightmare.
A number of Nigerians who fled Nigeria during the Biafran war are now resident in Gabon. There are also others who arrived travelling through a deadly sea in search of a promised greener pasture. Most would agree that the economy of Gabon is far better than Nigeria while some, entrapped in circumstances far beyond their control, feel there is no place like home.
Their stories recount their experiences, the dangers of migrating through the sea, challenges of starting a new life in a francophone country, a frictional relationship with the authorities, and the threatening fear of returning back to their homeland as empty as when they came.
(c) Invisible Borders
Alh Fatima Ile-Lawa. Has spent 2yrs in Libreville. Hails from Oyo State, Nigeria. She sells local Nigerian meals and attracts both Nigerian and Gabonese customers. She says life has been good since she arrived through the Dead Sea which almost claimed her life. Oct. 2012
Alh-Saliu. Has been living in Libreville for 40yrs, since the biafran war. Hails from Oyo state, Nigeria. He imports goods from Nigeria into Gabon. He says he would rather live in Libreville because life is easier there than in Nigeria. Oct. 2012
Anthony. Has spent 13yrs in Libreville.
His uncle promised him a better life in Gabon and took him through the Dead Sea which almost claimed his life. Unknowing to him, the job was to come and help people pull goods with a wheel barrow. He has also experienced xenophobic discrimination from his neighbours. Oct. 2012
Daniel. Has spent 23yrs in Libreville. He plans to move back to Nigeria as soon as his Ice cream business yields well enough to start a new business. However, he doesn’t know what to expect now since he left Nigeria with his parents at a very young age. Oct. 2012
Missaliyath. Has spent 12yrs in Libreville. Hails from Kwara State, Nigeria.
Though Gabon is predominantly a Christian community, there are still some mosques around the town owned and managed by Nigerians. Missaliyath receives Quran lessons during her holidays. Oct. 2012
Mrs Alis. Has spent 32yrs in Libreville.
She lives with her kids and travels to Nigeria ones in a while, importing rubber shoes and bags as she lost her husband some years ago. Oct. 2012
Mrs Ariet Ibe. Has spent 26yrs in Libreville.
Sells vegetables at the central market. She complains about the attitude of her fellow Nigerians in the country; saying they break rules and regulations of the government in a bid to make fast money. She says the Gabonese were nice and friendly people many years ago but are now very sensitive because of armed robbery cases related to Nigerian citizens. Oct. 2012
Ojelabi. Has spent 14yrs in Libreville. Hails from Ogun State, Nigeria.
Works as a taxi driver for 8 to 9hrs a day. He says he enjoys the basic infrastructure like power and good roads in Gabon. He boasts that he and his family have been living fine since they relocated. Oct. 2012
Sunday. Has spent 22yrs in Libreville. Hails from Abia State, Nigeria. He entered Gabon via a cargo aircraft in 1991 and has since worked with his brother. He recently started his own business, a Barbing saloon, the returns of which he uses to cater for himself and his Gabonese child. He says he would love to relocate back to his home country but he doesn’t feel it’s a better place now, as he hears sad stories in the news every day. Oct. 2012
Ajara. Has spent 10yrs in Libreville. She hawks petty baby products along the market road. She says life has been so difficult since the government banned roadside hawking. This doesn’t allow enough gains to be made as it was before. She lives with her Gabonese baby. She would love to move back to her country but she can’t do so yet, until she can afford to get her papers since she came in through the sea. Oct. 2012
Ajoke. Has spent 3yrs in Libreville.
She runs a big hair dressing saloon in the city. She says she hasn’t regretted coming to Libreville. She hopes to do more and be popular. Oct. 2012
Alexandra. He has spent 22yrs in Libreville.
Struggles to maintain life as he works as a sales man. ‘I would relocate to Nigeria when I can afford my transport fair back’ Oct. 2012