Update: Nigeria Diasporas And Bribery Of Custom Officials At Lagos MMIA – By Paul Omoruyi
Again, our voices have been heard! The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs, Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde (MFR, CFR) has responded to our article and wants to know how he can help to stop this extortion. Now is the time for action!!! Please see the below Petition letter to be sent to the Comptroller-General and express your opinions.
After the article “Nigeria Diasporas And Bribery Of Custom Officials At Lagos MMA” was published on January 4th, 2013, I received an avalanche of emails response from Nigerians all over the world. You can still read the reactions of Nigerians to the article via comments in saharareporters (http://saharareporters.com/article/nigeria-diasporas-and-bribery-custom-officials-lagos-mma-paul-omoruyi) publication or in diasporascope.com (http://www.diasporascope.com/nigeria-diasporas-and-bribery-of-custom-officials-at-lagos-mma-by-paul-omoruyi/).
Some of the respondents’ told stories of their encounter with Nigerian Customs at Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) that are just too obnoxious and disheartening that my supposed awful experience seemed like the best pass that a Nigerian Diaspora can have at MMIA.
I also received an email from the Nigerian Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde. In that email, he expressed interest in seeking for ways that he can help to ensure that Custom officials extorting Nigerians at MMIA are rightly identified and investigated.
For the sake of brevity, I will publish just two ludicrous but sad emails that I received:
Dear Eng. Omoruyi,
“You have made my day, and being this early in the year, you have made me more hopeful than ever for a happy and prosperous New Year for myself and Nigeria. You see, your post told me that there are at least two of us that had resolved and have stuck to not giving bribes to the customs or immigration officials at MMI. I have stuck to this at least for 10 years. You asked for our experiences. The incident that started me on the path of no bribe happened like this. I had ikon, ground crayfish, afang and dried fish. I will shorten the story. The customs people asked for money and I refused to dash anyone anything. They told me I had to go upstairs and get a certificate of inspection. A female oga took me upstairs, typed the form and then asked me for five thousand Naira. I told her that the official price for this form is one thousand Naira because I had obtained it in the past. She said things change. I gave her five thousand Naira. She took it and handed me the certificate. When I looked at the certificate, I observed that she had not used her name and also put a male officer’s name as the person who inspected my goods and wrote and signed the form (never mind that her finger prints were all over the paper). Right there and then, I told her that I was going to pray for her for demanding a bribe and for me for giving in to her. She stopped and I prayed for forgiveness for both of us. Then she said, you should have told me you were a pastor. I replied that it does not matter what I was, what she did was wrong. It was like she saw a ghost. All the way back down to the floor where check-in was going on, she was like a dead girl walking. Her eyes were looking straight ahead so much so that I thought she had become a zombie. On my next trip when they started that nonsense again, I told them I am a preacher and cannot preach one thing on Sunday and do the opposite for convenience during the week. They left my stuff and attended to others while I stood there sweating for a long time. Finally, they conferred amongst themselves and told me to get my things and go. I checked in for my flight. After that I went back to the first officer who had requested the bribe from me and asked him what he wants so I can pray to God to grant him that request. He told me he desperately wanted a car. I pulled him aside, he took off his cap and I prayed the Lord to give him a car 100% free of charge. I then told him that to get his wish he must stop requiring bribes. As I was about to leave the area, a young man who worked for the airline I was flying with that time grabbed my arm and told me he would not let me go until I blessed him. I asked him what he wanted and I prayed for him. I sensed faith in this young man. Since that time, I have never given them a Kobo. But I have prayed for customs officials to get promotions, find husbands and get children and assorted other things. Now, the way to change Nigeria is for ALL of us to adopt this willingness to pay the price for freedom. My wife once spent three extra days in Lagos for standing up for her rights (at a time when money been finish for pocket and all she wanted was to get back home!)”
Another email feedback:
“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!!!”
Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde, Nigerian Comptroller-General of Customs, was kind enough to write and stated:
“I want to sincerely thank you for saying your mind as a Nigerian, and also want to sincerely appreciate your feelings. However, all the officers at the Airport cannot be the same, in as much as we have to join hands together to change things in our country, surely we’ve to start from somewhere. Are you aware that immediately after the VIP lounge there is a Customs Complain Box? Are you aware that all officers are suppose to wear a name Tag? Are you aware that Nigeria Customs share a questionnaire to travelers with e-mail addresses to reply your observations to? Please Eng. be part of our reforms write to the service or to me direct, so as to change things for our country to be great”.
“We embarked into a serious reform and transformation, we cannot do it alone. I absolutely agreed with you, there are those that still believed in yesterday Customs. After an increase in take home to 100%, three pairs of uniform free, accommodation and an excellent medical facilities yet we have some that awaiting passenger to extort money? That Officer can be dismiss outright if found. Once again thanks Eng. but please do more to help us, encourage your friends to e-mail us.”
We thank the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs for personally responding to the article and for indicating interest in helping to stop the unnecessary extortion of Nigeria Diasporas at MMIA. So we want to encourage Nigerians to leverage the avenues identified by Comptroller-General to express their grievances. More importantly, take note of the Custom Officers name tags so you can be specific in your complaints about your experience with a particular officer.
Riding on this momentum, we have drafted a formal petition that will be sent directly to Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde, Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs using the personal contact information he provided via email. Also, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa will be copied. We hope to send this across ASAP.
Let us know via comment or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) what you will like to see added to the below petition. Be part of the new generation of Nigerians who are changing business as usual in Nigeria. Remember “the wheels of justice do turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine” and if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything!
PETITION: Mr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde: Stop The Dehumanizing Extortion of Nigerians By Custom Officials At MMIA.
Dear Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs,
Over the years, Nigerians in the Diaspora who travelled home through Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) have been extorted by the Nigerian Custom officials at the airport through intimidations; false accusation of carrying prohibited food items and outright aggressive solicitation for bribes.
In the last couple of years, we have had several cases of Nigerians missing their flights because they were intentionally delayed by Custom officials for not giving them bribes. We think this is unacceptable going forward and need to be stopped.
There are hundreds of known Nigerians in the Diaspora who now prefer to go through the inconvenience of travelling in and out of other Airports in the region just to avoid the embarrassing bribe request “show-down” with Custom officials at MMIA. This is bad for the economy of Nigeria.
More importantly, the image of Nigeria is increasingly being tarnished when foreigners see these abuse meted out to Nigerians by Custom official. A foreigner once asked a Nigerian at MMIA “why do Nigeria Customs and Immigration officers treat their citizens like animals?” Since Airport experience is the first impression people get about a country, the activities of Custom officers at MMIA is not the image Nigeria need to project.
Please sir, we are calling on you to use the power of your good office and the confidence reposed on you as a patriotic Nigerian to help stop the menace of MMIA Custom officers soliciting bribes from Nigeria Diasporas by intimidation.
As a result of this petition, Nigerians in the Diaspora have resolved that starting this year:
1. They will ensure that no prohibited food item is in their luggage
2. They will not give any bribe to Custom officials at MMIA as a way to participate in the “Corruption-free Nigeria” transformational agenda. They will give good-will appreciation tips to custom officials when they deem it necessary.
3. They will get Custom officials soliciting bribes on record by using hidden cameras and recording device. These secret recordings will be published on YouTube and other worldwide social media tools if nothing is done to stop this menace.
We thank you for your time and attention.
Paul Omoruyi (Blogger www.diasporascope.com) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora – Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa
Cc: Deputy Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora – Betty Appiafi
Cc: Chairman, Nigerians In Diaspora Organization, Americas (NIDOA) – Ganiyu Ademola Dada