How security guards use threats and delays to extort money from passengers at Lagos airport

Chinedu Eze
After a reduction in extortion by security agencies at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos (MMIA), following measures introduced by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo which reduced the interface of passengers with agents security, the extortion of travelers to MMIA has returned with full force, THISDAY investigation revealed

In 2018, the federal government introduced a transparent check-in process where passenger baggage was not physically searched in the departures hall, but performed by x-ray machines at the designated security screening center.

When THISDAY went to the international terminal at Lagos Airport, he noticed that next to the x-ray machine that checks all passenger baggage at the entrance to the terminal, officials from National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), of the Department of State Service (DSS), Quarantine and Aviation Security (AVSEC) of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) settled in a cabin where they ask passengers to bring their luggage for a physical search as soon as they exit the x-ray machine.

The development forced passengers to line up haphazardly and form a crowd at the terminal entrance as security guards took considerable time to search each bag.
It was learned that security guards carried out the same old routine of forcing passengers to pay money or having their luggage seized.

Passengers clearly in a hurry were paying to be allowed to go to the airline processing counter to check in.
THISDAY’s investigation also found that most of the things they threaten to seize are materials and items that are allowed to be checked in, but when officials are given money, passengers are allowed to take their bags with them. and to travel with them.
THISDAY cornered an NDLEA official (name withheld) who introduced himself as a member of the official task force team deployed by the agency to the airport.

He justified the search at the front door, saying the x-ray machine at that entrance was faulty and did not display many prohibited goods, adding that security officers had discovered guns and swords in passenger bags at this entrance.

When THISDAY reminded him that these bags would always be carefully checked before being checked in on the plane, he said not all of them would be checked again, but THISDAY confirmed by an AVSEC official that all bags would be screened before being taken to the aircraft and passengers’ prohibited goods were found in their bags are called by the airline’s security team and these prohibited goods are abandoned and in some cases the passengers are barred travel.
However, he acknowledged that in 2017 the United States donated Smith Detection Body Scan and other safety equipment to the NDLEA and that in the coming weeks it would donate more to the agency.

TODAY also saw a group of quarantine officers on the floor of the departures hall randomly stopping passengers and searching their luggage and some of them were asked to ‘pay’ for it or remove certain consumables from their bags. .
An FAAN official who sought anonymity said TODAY that quarantine and other security officials were not supposed to search passenger luggage in the lobby as there is a designated area for it during that carry-on baggage is x-rayed with passengers as they pass through the airside search facility to board their flights.

Aviation security experts and Centurion Securities Limited CEO Group Captain John Ojikutu, who was the former airport commander, told THISDAY that the extortion problem has been around for 30 years and security is compromised when security guards receive incentives from travelers.

“Until we comply with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Annex 17 requirements to establish a National Aviation Safety Committee and also establish an autonomous safety agency for airports which would have all the multiple government security agencies under its control, the situation will remain the same. government agencies to the FAAN which was created primarily for the development and management of airports and not for security?

“During my time, I got all the agencies together and designed a roaster that put the head of each agency, including the FAAN airport manager, in charge of the rest for a week. We started this before the United States found out they had similar problems and the Al Gore commission recommended the creation of the Transport Security Administration (TSA) which put all government security agencies at American airports under. the TSA. This is what I have been asking every aviation minister to do for many years; I have also advised against arming FAAN security until a unified airport security agency is established.

“We don’t need more than two checkpoints: one for immigration and one for hand baggage with a screening machine, which all agencies can monitor remotely. A machine was purchased for the joint use of Customs and NDLEA in 1991, for whatever reason it has never been used and they prefer to work separately. The government must develop a policy for the establishment of a unified control agency for aviation security, ”he said.

In her response, FAAN’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Ms. Henrietta Yakubu, said FAAN has made two numbers available for passengers to call whenever airport officials request a gratuity, adding: “There there is a provision for quarantine officials to use, I wonder why they chose to use the starting floor.

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