As we approached our destination for the night, the Drill Ranch., we were stopped by three drunk men demanding we pay a “youth free.” In accordance with best practices for unofficial stops in Africa, Benjamin kept driving. About 15 minutes later, however, the same men were chasing us on a motorcycle, along a narrow dirt road, and yelling at us to stop. We increased speed in the hopes that we would reach our destination and have someone there that could navigate the conflict before it escalated too far. While the men didn’t have any guns, two of them carried beer bottles.
In the hurried chase, we missed our turnoff and, after going deeper and deeper in the forest, on a smaller and smaller road, we eventually conceded and stopped.
The men approached the car and started demanding payment. They claimed to be youth leaders and that we each owed a youth tax of 5 Naira. After a bit of confusion, anger, and fear on our part, we regrouped and had Benjamin expertly take the lead negotiation. Tension ebbed and followed as the conflict ensued. They threatened to slash out tires and tapped their beer bottles on our window threatening to break them. If reasonable conversation could have occurred, we might have made progress, but as they were all drunk, reasonableness was not a priority for them.
Eventually, they agreed to meet us at the Drill Ranch, where Zach, our host and someone they knew, would help work things out. We drove to the Drill Ranch. Once there, only Benjamin got out to meet with Zach and the men (see picture). 30 minutes later, everyone agreed to continue the conversation back in the village tomorrow. And, after another 30 minutes, the men left via the motorcycle they came on. No payment was made but the situation was only temporarily resolved.
In the morning, Zach went to the community to speak with the community leader. The leader then came to meet with us and let us know that this was just youth being drunk and this is not normal. He requested that we look past the event as a one-off and be sure to not discourage people from visiting. It wasn’t exactly an apology, and didn’t leave us with any confidence that the youth had been dealt with such that the problem wouldn’t occur again, but the community leaders effort to come and meet with us was appreciated. (2023-09-12)
UPDATE: We heard of another overland couple visiting in the last week and they said no youth tax was demanded. Supposedly, Zach spoke with the village chief and the tax has been removed. (2023-09-24)