Update: Nigeria Diasporas And Bribery Of Custom Officials At Lagos MMIA – By Paul Omoruyi

Update: Nigeria Diasporas And Bribery Of Custom Officials At Lagos MMIA – By Paul Omoruyi

Fellow Nigerians,

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.

Background:

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 (publisher@diasporascope.com or diasporascope@gmail.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.

Sincerely,

Patriotic Nigerians

Paul Omoruyi (Blogger www.diasporascope.com) – eng.p.omoruyi@gmail.com

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

 

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Comments

  1. Abike says:

    I have only come across this article today and wished i had seen it much earlier as of when the petition was written.
    I must say each time i come and go out of Nigeria, the only thing that get my blood boiling and gets me very angry is the fact that i have to go through immigration. Unfortunately i will be meeting with them in a couple of days as i plan to travel of the country.

    In April 2013, when i was leaving Nigeria, i had two bags of garri which was meant for my siblings, they were wrapped in clear bags so i wouldn’t need to open them and having the immigration Officers stick their dirty hands into it. The immigration Officer who was male told me i was not allowed to take Garri, and i told him it was not the first time i would be carrying garri and i know what i can carry and what i cannot carry. He then asked me to go upstairs to their office and get clearance for the goods. Bcos i chuckled at what he said he saw it as an opportunity to get angry as the next response he gave was that ‘you are smiling, you think its funny’, i wasn’t aware that there has been a ban on freedom of expression!!! When i didn’t respond to him, my fiance who is now my husband came forward to talk/plead with the man of which i did not get involved in.
    After a while he asked me to close my bags and go, but neither myself nor my fiance parted with money. I was determined not to do such. As far as i remember i have never had to do such. I do not condone such behaviour. I would rather give alot of money to someone who has been of immense assistance to show appreciation of what they did for me that to be forced to give bribe. Same goes for Police people.

    They give Nigeria a very bad image, make the efforts of well meaning Nigerians who are working hard to change the image of Nigeria and to show the International community that we can be trusted, they can do business with us without being skeptical. it is such corrupt practices that make it hard for Nigerians who live abroad to secure positions/business ventures that they are fully qualified for/have the potential to deliver-because there is no trust.

    This country is a great nation and we have huge potential as a people, and considering that i have lived and worked abroad for over 10 years,i will categorically say we are very intelligent people. But if we continue down this route, the international community will never respect us or take us seriously.

    Should you ever decide to implement a mystery shopping exercise, i will be more than happy to participate.I am a HR Professional and i value the progress of an organisation through its human resources and if means getting rid of the bag eggs, i am totally up for it!

  2. It will be nice if something can be done, the way they search your belongings and demand money. There is no way you would not give them money unless you want to miss your flight.

  3. olayinka says:

    it is so sad, these custom people always have a way of delaying someone. go to Apapa/Tincan port and see for yourself. A senior officer will clear your paper, when you get to another seat a stupid junior officer will stop you and start bragging and threatening to arrest you and your good all because they want bribe. How many can one say, we are really in a mess, a big mess in the hands of Custom officers. And when they open your goods for examination you must part with something because they do that on purpose just to get bribe otherwise they raise you one ridiculous bill to pay. I doubt if the Comptroller general can do anything from his seat in Abuja.

    The hidden camera and uploading on youtube for the whole world to see is a good idea.

    Long Live Nigeria

  4. Bright says:

    Dear Sir,
    I do not live abroad like you people but I travel abroad from time to time.
    I think we form a larger population of the victims, giving the number (and frequency) of those who travel out of Nigeria on leisure, business, medicals, training etc. The story is the same if not worse!
    The CG of customs should not sound helpless if he is sincere. All they need are: (1)To watch the CCTV footage at the notorious D and E arrivals and exit points at the airport daily with a view to picking up sharp practices;(2) Having “mystery shoppers” blend in at arrivals and departures with a view to catching the perpetrators. I will volunteer for free and I know many others who will!
    The CG will be unworthy of his post if he can’t effect far reaching changes in the service, or is he going to claim ignorance that his men bribe to be posted to MMIA, and Tin Can? Please, may I have the Customs boss’ email if you have it. Thank you for this piece.
    Big shame!

  5. Joseph says:

    On the 16th Oct 2012, I travelled to Nigeria with Virgin airline from London to Lagos. Me and my Mrs,we bought one television for my parent as a present but on arriving in Lagos, Nigeria custom first delay our television saying they can’t find the security that got the door key.
    After we have got our bags, we waited for about hour long to get the television.
    On our way out,about 4 to 5 custom officers asking us what and what did I have in my bags, I opened all the bags for search then the officers saying what did I have in that big box,
    I replies 42 inch LED television and have got my received because me and my wife bought the TV for my parent as a surprise.
    The officer said I have to pay duty on one television, I said by Nigeria custom service law allow personal use item, then the officer bring one small custom book out and asked me to read it that I have to pay custom duty.
    Then I said am not going to pay because I know my right, we were delay for another 2 hours + already and my wife started crying,she is Polish national.
    My family have been waiting since 5.30 and past 9.30 we
    Still waiting until my Mum called saying she will pay the money then I went back to officer to know how much did I have to pay, he said he going to work 10% from my receive and I gave him the received then he later said he will talk to his boss. He came back saying I shouldn’t worry about the duty on TV.
    I have report the incident to Virgin Airline as well on arriving back in London.

    We got delay for 3 and half hours after we got our bags, it not fair.

    Many thanks.

  6. adekunlesaka@hotmail.com says:

    Just came across the updated commentary on the above subject. Would have opted to
    pen down my experience as well but for time factor. It is a cancerous issue that unfortunately,
    is deeply rooted than we all know. And please let me raise your awareness on the fact that it is
    not just the immigration officers that are actively involve. The ‘search crew’ is a combination of
    security agency. I was in Nigeria twice between october 2011/ May 2012. Personally, i go for the
    certificate, though the criteria/yardstick to determine the value/payment for the certificate itself is
    just too stupid. Stupid in the mere sense that the officer in charge will just take a look at what you
    have and voice out what you will pay. Just like that. But, ironically it is cheaper than the bribe in
    most cases. I have read the response of the ‘General’ himself. A lot can be done to effect a change
    in their attitude within few months. Has he ever thought of planting an undercover to get someone
    in the act. What about 24hrs services in obtaining certificates (as at last year May after 5 or 6pm
    you cannot obtain certificate simply because they are off duty). Public education about ‘Their Rights’
    will be a valuable tool. That can start from pictoria display at the airport on what to do and where
    to call for help. It is a common thing all over. Also, establish a criteria (per kilo or whatever)
    for paying for the certificate and let it be KNOWN to all by pasting it in a common area, well illuminated
    area. A 24hrs hotline number to report any incident or confirm if you are rightly charged. And lastly,
    whatever is done to arrest the issue, please let it be functional. Don’t just create what you cannot maintain.
    Thanks.

  7. adesola says:

    Thank you exposing the corrupt practice of the Customs at the airport. But you fail to write about when coming into the country.

    On several occassion, when coming back home,am always distressed because I know what am going to face at the entry point.

    The embarassment of having to open your luggage and then the customs riffling through is a shame.

    After spending my hard earned money to buy gift of clothing, shoes etc for my family and friends, the Custom officials will still be harassing you to part with money before you are allowed to leave d airport.

    There was a particular day I was delayed for more than 2hrs simply because I told them I do not have any cash with me and my hubby was already jittery outside, wondering what was delaying me. I had to start begging and even showed them the picture of my baby but the woman was adamant. At the end of d day, I had to give her the 10,000 naira with me.

    It is not enough for the CGC to sit down in Abuja, he needs to pay unscheduled visits to the airport to access firsthand the disgrace his men are causing the Customs and the country as a whole because the general belief is that the officers at the airport do make returns to their superior officers.

  8. Nelson Etaghene says:

    Thanks for this nobel cause you have started. Just like a lot of fellow Nigerians I have travelled back to Nigeria on several occasions and to avoid having to give bribe to custom/NDLEA/etc I have stopped carrying any thing from Nigeria, I would prefer to spend the extra money to buy the stuff abroad than to offer bribe at the airport simply because I want to carry garri or egusi etc. One thing I think that needs to happen is education. Nigerians need to know what they can carry out of the country without been asked for permit and all that, they need to have a publication stating what could be carried out of the country with(out) export certificate or permit.

    If they have flyers at the airport that states what one can carry I am sure it would be difficult for custom officers to extort bribe from traveling Nigeria as it would be easy for them to show the officer that the law permits them to carry such goods without harassment.

    On the last three times I have visited I must confess I have met some nice officer who only ask me to “do something for the table” and because I felt I was asked nicely I have given them simply because I wasn’t forced to.

    Thanks once again for the good work,

Facebook