Nigeria Diasporas And Bribery Of Custom Officials At Lagos MMA – By Paul Omoruyi

Nigeria_Airport

Nigeria Diasporas And Bribery Of Custom Officials At Lagos MMA – By Paul Omoruyi

In the next couple of weeks, thousands of Nigerians who travelled home to celebrate the holidays with their friends and families will be returning back to the United States, Europe, Asia and everywhere in-between.

Anyone who has travelled internationally in and out of Lagos Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) will agree with me that sometimes it could be very challenging to deal with the Nigerian Custom officials. I have gone through the hullaballoo experience every year in the last seven years and have a fair share of the tumultuous and disdainful encounter.

By the way, last year, I celebrated my third year of consciously and decidedly not giving any form of bribe to Nigerian Custom officials. Before then, I have had to give money to them to check-in my luggage that contain “allowable African Food” products like ground Pepper, Melon, Egusi, Crayfish. To them, I needed to “pay” to carry those items in the checked-in luggage.

As a frequent flyer, I am all too familiar with prohibited items on commercial international flights for carry-on and checked-in luggage’s. The rules for carry-on items of liquid and gel, food, guns and firearms, incendiary devices, checked baggage, sporting equipment, sharp objects are publically available either on the airline’s website or the Nigeria Customs Service’s site.

Knowing all the tricks the customs officials used to extort money from unsuspecting and naïve travelers, I made the decision in 2009, that I will not give money as a form of “bribe” to any Nigerian Custom official going forward. That, I thought, will be my two cents contribution of not perpetuating bribery and corruption in Nigeria.

So, for the first time, I paid the bribe-free drive price in 2010. After five custom officials at the Lufthansa Airline desk have gone through a gruesome search of my luggage (only God knows why such search requires five men. I think it is a waste of man power and time anyway!), they wanted me to “give them something” because one of the items was not “labeled”. I asked if I can label it right there since I have a pen on me. They indicated they have no time for that. I can either throw it away or give them “something” to carry it.

Bluntly, I told them I will prefer to throw it away because I have nothing to give to them to carry the item. My relative who was watching started pleading with me to give them something so I can “carry my thing go”. I refused and took out the product and gave it to my relative to take it back even though I spent so much money to buy the items.

That was my first bribe-free sacrifice and a promise that I have kept in the last three years even though some friends and relatives think I am crazy.

This is also the call I want to make to all Nigerian Diasporas travelling back from their vacation this year and going forward. We, as a people, cannot be clamoring to end bribery and corruption in Nigeria while we are perpetuating it ourselves by this seemingly little things. It is a simple concept: If you have no will to change it, then you have no right to criticize it! So Diasporas please STOP GIVING AIRPORT CUSTOM OFFICIALS BRIBES!

To facilitate this, I will provide some strategies I have adopted to avoid offering bribe to Nigeria Custom officials at the MMA:

1. Ensure you do not carry prohibited items. Read your airline baggage and carry-on policies or go to Nigeria Custom Service site for prohibited items and rules.

2. Arrive at the airport very early to check-in your luggage so you have time to go through the dehumanizing encounter with the custom officials. When they know you are running late, they will use delay tactics to extort you. Sometimes, they will say “we need to send you upstairs to see our boss for further processing. It will take you another 30 minutes or 1 hour for that processing; otherwise just settle us here”. So watch out when they want to play that game.

3. Make sure you label any item you carry. If necessary, use transparent plastic to wrap your items.

4. If you have a relative with you at the airport, let them stick around until you have checked in. If for any reason the custom officials come up with the game of throwing away something, simply give it to your relative to take back home.

5. Control your emotions when they speak to you unprofessionally, impolitely and condescendingly. Some lack professional training and others do it just to stir up an opportunity to get you agitated for extortion.

6. Respond with “yes sir or yes ma” when they instruct you or ask you a question. They tend to treat you with more restrain when you display some form of sophistication and civility that is eccentric to them.

We must all pay the price to make Nigeria a better place. This requires telling the inconvenient truth and taking the pains that goes with it. Let me know of your experience with Nigeria Custom officials at MMA that you would like to share!

I wish all Nigerians home and abroad a Happy New Year. May God bless Nigerians and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Blog: www.diasporascope.com

Email: eng.p.omoruyi@gmail.com

 

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Comments

  1. Tee says:

    Thanks for this piece. They had once detained my husband for more than 1 hour because he refused to play ball. In my last trip, i was shocked they were not embarrased sharing my foodstuff right before my eyes. At least they gave me half and took the remaining half. I refused to part with a kobo too.

  2. Dr. Kola says:

    These eye sores when leaving the airports are disgrace on a nation, I was in Nigeria in January 2009 to attend the funeral of my late auntie who raised me with my late grandmother. On my way out of Nigeria at MMIA Lagos, I was harassed by a team of civil servants( Customs, NDLEA, Immigration,SSS, Airport staff, etc.). I had bought few gifts( robbs, arts and crafts, weaven baskets,etc) in Nigeria to give to my family and friends abroad. I was threatened by this group of thieves parading themselves as civil servants. They asked for ridiculous things as certificate of antiquities, export certificate, etc. At the end they asked for bribes in hard currencies which I am always against when I refused to yield they broke my valuables and the airport staff kept one of my bags. It is a shame to see other travellers giving them money for a bag of gari, beans, etc.

    I often dread to go to Nigeria because the same experience I get every time. In one of my trips a group of custom officers accused me of taking the whole Nigeria with me and when I explained to them that by tourists coming to Nigeria and buying things it helps Nigerian economy. They laughed at me and said how would that help them with their mansions in cities and villages?In Abuja in August 2005 I ended up in the front of their committee of fat bellies officers in Nnamidi Azikwe Airport Abuja arguing my case, I was made to miss my flight and stayed further 4-5 days a situation that made me lost days at work in my UK base. They seem to work in group of 10-12 men and women at a big desk bullying ones to submissions. They don’t care what you carry they just want the bribes. UnGod fearing and unlawabiding bunch!.

    Nigeria stinks to high heaven and only complete change can save this country from self destruction!!!

  3. Dr. Kola says:

    These eye sores when leaving the airports are disgrace on a nation, I was in Nigeria in January 2009 to attend the funeral of my late auntie who raised me with my late grandmother. On my way out of Nigeria at MMIA Lagos, I was harassed by a team of civil servants( Customs, NDLEA, Immigration,SSS, Airport staff, etc.). I had bought few gifts( robbs, arts and crafts, weaven baskets,etc) in Nigeria to give to my family and friends abroad. I was threatened by this group of thieves parading themselves as civil servants. They asked for ridiculous things as certificate of antiquities, export certificate, etc. At the end they asked for bribes in hard currencies which I am always against when I refused to yield they broke my valuables and the airport staff kept one of my bags. It is a shame to see other travellers giving them money for a bag of gari, beans, etc.

    I often dread to go to Nigeria because the same experience I get every time. In one of my trips a group of custom officers accused me of taking the whole Nigeria with me and when I explained to them that by tourists coming to Nigeria and buying things it helps Nigerian economy. They laughed at me and said how would that help them with their mansions in cities and villages. In Abuja in 2005 I ended up in the front of their committee in Nnamidi Azikwe Airport Abuja arguing my case, I was made to miss my flight and stayed further 4-5 days a situation that made me lost days at work n m UK base. They seem to work in group of 10-12 men and women at a big desk bullying ones to submissions. They don’t care what you carry they just want the bribes.

    Nigeria stinks to high heaven and only complete change can save this country from self destruction.

  4. Funmi says:

    Compliments,
    I agree with your write up on not bribing Customs Officers 100%.
    We must change this country at our small individualistic levels.
    I congratulate you for the Will to stand by your position and Happy New Year to you and all yours.

  5. Mr. K. says:

    Hi,
    I read with interest your great article on our unprofessional airport touts calling themselves civil servants. For many years, I have experienced the same with family members goading me to obey these thieves. In 2005, I was made to miss my flight and stayed 3-4 days in Abuja because I refused to concur with them.
    My brother I have more to share with you on this matter so let us keep in touch and organise in order to sanitise our airport and country in general.

    Happy and prosperous 2013 and beyond! I salute your courage, I had thought I was the only one who think this way because most travellers conform to these uncivilised actions of these so called Nigerian civil servants.

    Good day!!!

    K. Akindele

  6. chinedu says:

    We must do everything possible to end bribery in Nigeria; I love the smallest quota you’ve contributed viz custom. Keep it up!
    God Bless and happy new year

  7. bolaji says:

    Hello,

    I read your piece in Sahara Reporters and I must say that I am really impressed with your stance on not giving bribes at MMIA.

    I went on holidays with my family to Nigeria in 2011 after 6 years in the UK and on our way back to the UK, was forced to give the customs officers money even though we did not carry any banned goods.

    After reading this, I will adopt your strategies the next time I travel through MMIA or any of our international airports. If we are to eradicate corruption we all have to play our parts. Just today, I read about a former governor’s property seizures and began to think that family members has a lot to play in eradicating corruption.

    We need to start questioning relatives, friends etc who prior to any political appointments had nothing and all of sudden started acquiring assets as soon as they get into government and which his/her salary cannot afford. ( Even call a family meeting if necessary).

    I have been doing this, with family members and friends who I know that what they have is not as a result of their hardwork or business and to be honest it has not been easy, but I don’t care.
    Things need to change in our country and we are the one to change it for ourselves.

    Kind Regards,

    Bolaji.

  8. Ojo Madu says:

    Dear Engineer,
    In the lighter mood:
    These Customs officials are only trying to make more money to enjoy LAGOS PROSTITUTES like you do- We all know that Nigerians from abroad bring in so much money that we also need to be part of it all!
    Is it not better to beg than to steal?

    They need to play ARISTOS as well!

    MOST NIGERIAN WOMEN ARE IN FACT PROSTITUTES

    Please read bellow!

    Nigerian Women are Most Unfaithful in the World – Durex.

    A survey conducted by condom manufacturer, Durex, in which 29,000 people in 36 countries were interviewed has ranked Nigerian women as the most unfaithful in the world.

    According to the survey, Thailand men are the most unfaithful in the world, with 54 percent of them admitting to cheating on their spouses. South Korea came in second with 34 percent, while Malaysia ranked number three with 33 percent.

    The survey revealed that the top two countries with cheating women are Nigeria, with 62 percent, and Thailand, 59 percent.

    39 percent of Malaysian women also confessed to having betrayed their partners. Russian women came fourth at 33 percent while Singaporeans are fifth at 19 percent.

    An independent survey also conducted in Africa by AE affirms the fact that Nigeria with a population of over 160 million tops the chart for cheating women. Corruption and a general distrust amongst citizens is largely responsible for this. – channels tv.

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