This is a disheartening experience I once considered not sharing in order not to further ridicule the image of Nigeria, but I re-considered notifying the public in order to alert unsuspecting travellers and returnees plying the airport.
In mid-January, 2017, I was packing my personal effects to visit my home country Nigeria for holiday. Among what I packed was a designer sunglass (name withheld in order not to promote any brand) I got as a gift from a close friend. The glass had a thick casing, but to avoid the risk of it been destroyed by heavy contents in my luggage, I carefully placed it at the top angle of the bag; close to the zip lock.
I arrived Nigeria safely, passed the immigration officials who are fond of exploiting individuals upon arrival to Nigeria, especially foreigners. Nigerians arriving into Nigeria are approached uncouthly to queue up and are been attended to by two immigration personnel while over ten surrounded the few non-Nigerians visiting Nigeria.
One of my personal traits will be useful in this piece, hence I seek your permission to inform you about it. My nearest and dearest knows that before speaking, especially on sensitive issues or accusations, it’s in me to reason logically and block any loopholes one can use as a form of defense. Having alerted you on that, you will agree with me that the immigration workforce, upon been probed (that’s if anyone cares to), can put up a defense that they formed the habit of surrounding the arriving foreigners in order to thoroughly scrutinise their papers. On the contrary, the glaring truth is that they are negotiating their pockets and affirming any negative news and terrible thoughts the foreigners have in mind about Nigeria. If you doubt me, please ask any constant user of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. If you still think my point is baseless, please ask yourself why immigration officials of other nations don’t surround foreigners, talk to them in whispers and callously exploit them when there is (or there ought to be) an established entry and exit immigration procedures at the airport. Aside sacking the Directors of the aviation sector, the federal government still have a lot of disgraceful elements to flush out of the system. No matter how hardworking and strict the heads of government agencies are, once the subordinates are inefficient and corrupt, the service delivery can never be perfect.
Let us navigate back to the issue of my sunglass. I was picked-up at the airport and got home safely. The truth opened up when I was to meet my friend that gifted me the sunglass and I decided to pose with it in order to make my friend happy and to at least know I appreciate the sunglass’ having been accused of being reluctance to receive gifts and fond of not using the ones received. I reached out for my glass case. It was not shocking to find it right there in the bag for I kept it there, but it was shocking that the case was empty. Oh no! My precious sunglass is missing. You know that moment when you are so sure you kept your belonging somewhere and you have a reason to cast doubt you really kept it there?
Disappointed, I dialled my friend who gifted me the sunglass to narrate the situation. Without doubts, my friend believed the glass was indeed missing and I had hoped to ‘pose’ with it that very day, but doubt if I truly included it in my luggage before boarding a flight to Nigeria. My friend was convinced that I must have picked an empty case from my monocle collections. I insisted I packed the sunglass in my luggage and voiced my suspicion about it been stolen during luggage offloading at the airport. We agreed I should re-check when I return abroad before concluding. I later departed Nigeria for the diaspora, searched my apartment and my sunglass is nowhere to be found. Don’t ask maybe someone else took it, I stay alone!
Back to my personal trait of reasoning logically and articulating my points carefully. You may want to argue that how am I sure it was stolen at the Nigerian airport and not the airport of the country I departed from. Am sure you are most likely nodding that I just raised a strong point! Truth be told, I have on many occasion travelled out of the country I departed from to other countries and returned there without experiencing such. Moreover, nations across the world, including the country I departed from, have a flexible purchasing system that allows citizens acquire their choice items (car, house, laptop and even phones) and be paying in installments. This reduces corruption and crime since you can always get anything you thirst for and pay later. In Nigeria, you are to pay instantly for almost anything you so desire, even if cost just a kobo or billions of Naira.
Before I dish out more reasons for my conviction that my sunglass was stolen at the Nigerian airport, may I conceptualize corruption as a virus. In our country where almost every public official greedily amass public funds and airport officials openly struggle to fill their pockets, you don’t expect those offloading luggage from the plane to be saints. Worsening the situation, the individuals offloading the luggage are most likely not well paid and are not directly exposed to the arriving passengers, hence they have no means to solicit for bribes or render salutations and prayers that would leave you with no choice than to appreciate their gesture with a tip. They too, like every other Nigerian, wants to ride fancy cars, live in classy apartments and travel overseas. When all these are not achievable and there’s no other avenue to earn extra, they would most likely result to enriching themselves by stealing from people’s luggage. Besides, what do you expect an airport casual worker to do when he hears how ex NNPC GMD, Andrew Yakubu, pocketed millions of dollars and he/she sees the airport staffs soliciting for bribes without caution and impunity? The spirit of corruption and diabolical enrichment will automatically penetrate such person like a virus. Please don’t mistake my explanation as a justification for stealing. It’s not!
Sadly, the stealing is done in such a way that you will be left in a state of confusion as to whether your property is really missing or you never included it in your luggage. Imagine, the person who stole my sunglass was so professionally minded to leave the case behind. Such would have happened to hundreds of people and is most likely still happening. You can say mine is just a glass, but you don’t know its worth and the worth of valuables stolen daily from others. Fellow Nigerians, be sure you pack your luggage carefully in such a way that no one can easily steal from it during loading for departure or offloading upon arrival at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Please share till it reaches the authorities and as many Nigerians as possible.