The rate at which immigration officials at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport are operating through illegal collection of money from passengers is getting very alarming. This is evident in the ensuing story that amplifies the rotten status of Nigerian immigration officials at Nigeria’s foremost international airport.
In spite of efforts being made by the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the extortion and harassment of passengers are still going on at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
News of the People learnt that security operatives at the central security search of the airport individually and severally fleece ignorant passengers after they had been officially approved to travel by the Nigeria Immigration Service.
For instance, last Wednesday, some women from Ondo State who were travelling in group to Russia, told our reporter that after going through rigorous Immigration processes, they were still asked by officials of Aviation Security (AVSEC) to cough out $100 each before they would be allowed to travel. But luck ran out of the operatives of AVSEC as the women cleverly reported them to a top official of another security agency who insisted that they must refund the money.
Despite of the campaign by Federal Government against extortion, this kind of nefarious activities is still on and many allege officials of Nigerian Immigration Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and AVSEC as major culprits.
Investigation by this magazine revealed that immigration officers at the airport particularly target first – time travelers to extort. For instance, a particular incident on 6th September clearly gave them out as a group of extortionists. On this particular day, no fewer than six passengers traveling to South Africa on Arik Air were denied boarding because they could not part with two hundred dollars charged by the immigration officer on duty. An officer identified as O. Ajana played into the hands of our undercover when he requested for $200 from a Lagos traditional ruler before he could allow his daughter to travel. Eventually, the lady missed the flight when she could not part with such an amount. However, when News of the People approached the office of the Immigration Controller at the airport, the story was different. They claimed to have acted in good faith as the passenger in question did not inform them she had one thousand dollars on her as travel allowance. The lady however made another booking with the airline but not without parting with an extra cost before she embarked on the journey. Extortion of passengers is not new to the authorities but they seem helpless as many are yet to be brought to book.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr Harold Demuren, recently said urgent action must be taken against security operatives, who extort money from passengers, while passing them through the airport security.
Demuren said when these security officers solicit for money from the passengers they compromise their professional duties of ensuring that the passengers do not board flights with prohibited materials and in such compromised state could connive with dangerous passengers and breach the security of the airport.
He expressed deep regret that such activities were rampant at MMIA- the nation’s busiest gateway, disclosing that he was a victim of such security personnel who had solicited gifts and money from him, in the past.
Speaking in the same vein, the Deputy Comptroller of Immigration Service, MMIA, Garba Babantalle Abdullahi, had recently indicated interest in putting an
End to the illicit racket of extortion and exploitation of travellers.
He warned that the command would not tolerate any act of indiscipline or misconduct from any of his men in the Command in the discharge of their duties.
We at News of the People wait with keen interest if he can follow this to the letter.