Following the implementation of the executive order on ease of doing business in Nigeria, extortion of money from passengers by security operatives at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos has drastically reduced.
The removal of tables where security operatives carry out physical searching of luggage has enhanced facilitation of screening as movement of passengers from check-in to boarding is now faster.
But investigations carried out by THISDAY last week revealed that the security operatives, especially the personnel of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Aviation Security (AVSEC) of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Customs who man the entrance gates at the international terminal of the airport still extort money from passengers.
Sequel to a tip-off that passengers were being harassed and forced to part with money for trumped up reasons ,THISDAY carried out a check and observed the movement of passengers that come into departures and how some of them were searched by the security personnel, especially those of NDLEA.
Located beside the main x-ray machine installed at the entrance of the terminal is a small cubicle where the x-ray monitor was placed. The way it was conceived by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), after the ease of doing business policy was introduced, was that AVSEC officials would be monitoring the luggage brought to the airport to ensure that dangerous weapons, including incendiary devices were not allow to enter the terminal. But little by little the other security operatives gathered at that small kiosk and started extorting passengers.
THISDAY watched when a passenger’s bag was searched and a barber’s clipper was removed by the NDLEA official. The security operative told the passenger that he would not travel with the clipper. The passenger said he was going to check in the bag. The NDLEA official threatened and shouted at the passenger. The passenger, cowed started begging that he should be allowed to travel with the clipper. The NDLEA official was defiant, obviously supported by other operatives in the cubicle.
THISDAY also observed that other people were also being extorted but the security operatives target those travelling for the first time and those they know could be intimidated. Many other passengers entered the terminal without any hindrance. They just placed their bags on the x-ray machine and collected them on the other side.
THISDAY also observed that at peak hours, the AVSEC officials monitoring the x-ray machine find it difficult to keep pace in monitoring the content of the luggage on the x-ray screen. An informed source said that the x-ray machine is just “helping those security officials to be making money from passengers.”
Standing few meters away from the kiosk and observing the security operatives interfacing with the passengers recently, THISDAY noticed that despite the effort of government and FAAN to sanitise the airport and end the exploitation of passengers, another extortion centre had been created.
Other airport users confirmed to THISDAY that the officials of NDLEA have become a menace at the airport despite the promises made by the management that it would rein the excesses of the officials posted to the Lagos airport international terminal.
Inside source told THISDAY that NDLEA officials usually stop passengers during check-in process and force them to part with money or else, they would not be allowed to travel. It gathered that sometimes, some of the passengers do miss their flights owing to the delay.
“There are extortions going on at the airport but the major culprits are the officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. They are the worst of the uniform personnel at the airport. They will stop some passengers who have met all the conditions to travel and request for dollars. Not many of the passengers know their rights and due to fear they will start negotiating with the NDLEA officials.
“What is very bad about their illicit activities is that sometimes they continue to delay the passengers who refused to give them money until they miss their flights, but the situation now cannot be compared to the past. A lot of improvement has taken place,” the official said.
Some of the airport officials told THISDAY that while other security operatives cannot be exonerated, the activities were not as menacing and callous like that of NDLEA officials.
THISDAY notice that it was NDLEA personnel that spearheaded the nefarious activities of exploitation and harassment of passengers. A FAAN official told THISDAY that a new batch of NDLEA officials who came in late last year and early this year are so menacing and defiant that they do not adhere to any directives.
“They believe they were brought in here to come and make money and therefore nobody should try to stop them,” the FAAN source said.
THISDAY contacted the spokesman of NDLEA; Jonah Achema, who said that he was not in a position to talk about the issues. He however noted that the management of the agency is monitoring activities of its personnel and those who do not abide by the rules would be laid off.