Although one of the promises of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government was to curb corruption across the country, it appears that some of the Federal Government’s agencies (Police, Nigeria Immigration Service, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Customs) are not on the same page with the President.
Some of these men, who are stationed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, have continued to perpetrate ignoble acts tantamount to corruption, unabated. Extortion, demanding bribes or handouts from passengers are rife at various points at the airports, whether on arrival or while departing.
What passengers are saying
A civil engineer, Olaoluwa Ajibade, who narrated his experience while travelling to Turkey via the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, explained that the bold nature of harassment by officials of the agencies in their quest for money and other valuables from passengers was a disgrace to the nation.
He said, “I was embarrassed when I saw officials of NIS and NDLEA demanding bribes from foreigners and Nigerians before allowing them go through the checkpoints.
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Some of them did not check the luggage at all because of the tip, while some of us who refused to bribe them were unnecessarily delayed. It is saddening to see these men bringing shame to this great country.”
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Another passenger, Leke Biobaku, also narrated his experience, when he was travelling out of the country recently. After he had left the first checkpoint at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, he was confronted by another set of Police, NDLEA, Immigration, and Customs officers who had set up another “stop and search,” to extort money from travellers.
“The first set demanded bribe humorously, but the second set wanted money from me and they wanted it fast. It was alarming when they demanded foreign currency because they found I was travelling to Atlanta, Georgia, United States. When I told them I didn’t have dollars to part with, they demanded valuables and I gave them a wristwatch because my legs were aching.
A man by my side was made to go through rigorous checks, probably because he had nothing to part with. The mobile policeman told him to part with his wristwatch that he would buy another one when he got to his destination, but he refused.
As you manage to beat the second ‘toll’ point, you begin the process of checking-in your luggage. That also comes with another demand for bribes. One hefty man who checked my luggage stopped midway to demand that I tip him. I told him I had no money on me. His countenance changed immediately when he saw I was not ready to give anything,” Biobaku narrated.
Extortion, especially across International airports in the country, is a menace that has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation for decades.
When President Buhari took over office in 2015, several Nigerians, both at home and abroad, heaved a sigh of relief, as the President assured the nation that his administration would have zero tolerance for such behaviour.
Many had hoped that an end had come to the menace at the international airports but the reverse is the case as some of the law enforcement officers have further constituted an international embarrassment to Nigeria.
The case of Nick Schifrin, a reporter with NPR, a US-based media outlet, was an embarrassment that remains fresh in the memory of Nigerians. In January 2016, Schifrin was sent to Nigeria by his company to investigate the country’s notorious culture of corruption, and he had a lot to write about at the point of entry.
NRP stated that he went to Nigeria to cover the country’s notorious culture of corruption, and he was immediately hit up for a bribe by the man behind the Lagos airport X-ray machine, then by a police officer outside the airport and by a soldier on the road from the airport. As Nick said, corruption isn’t just an annoyance and a drag on the economy; it can have tragic consequences.
On June 10, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari assured Nigerians that anyone found guilty of corruption in his administration would be eased out quickly, according to Nairametrics. Whether the President will keep to his promise or not, only time will tell.