There is an ingrained, brazen, beggarly culture at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, and it should worry every Nigerian of good conscience. It’s embarrassing, to put it rather mildly.
Worse, it sullies Nigeria’s already battered reputation.
On November 17, 2019, I breezed into the MMIA Lagos for the Emirates flight to Dubai. Outside, police officers were shamelessly begging travelers for money. You couldn't distinguish them from the touts and louts.
Once I alighted from the car, they besieged me for some money too. I ignored them, pulled my luggage even closer and scurried into the departure lounge where the first immigration officials I ran into were forcefully fleecing a traveler of N2,000.
At every immigration point I got to---and I think I went through about six--there were two or more airport or immigration officials shamelessly begging for a tip.
Two immigration officials even profiled me because I spot a beard and refused to stamp my passport all because they wanted a bribe. I didn't budge.
All passengers are asked to ‘drop something’ by grown ass men and women who should have some dignity and decency.
“Buy me water,” the man at the last point said with a grin so wide, I had to leave him with a N1,000 note for his troubles. It was the least I could do in the circumstances, especially after turning down everyone else, save for one lady who asked why I wasn’t traveling to Dubai “with madam.” Anyone who asks about madam, even in passing, would always gain some sympathy from me.
I do know that almost everyone begs at our airports and the practice has become a norm, but we still should be able to speak up against it when we have the chance. Moreso because there is no other airport in the world where officials beg for money this way. It’s a shame that we have accepted begging and bribery at our airports by government officials, as the norm.
Did I also mention that the MMIA Lagos is arguably the worst looking, least organised airport in the world? There you have it. The place is a stinking, claustrophobic, hot mess. We really need to fix up.
This is hoping Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, or whoever oversees the immigration chaps, reads this piece and calls the men and women who daily bring shame to our nation, to order.
We really cannot continue like this.