Despite the current unpleasant security situation in the country, touts and touting activities have continued to take center stage across Nigerian airports especially the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
An investigation by our correspondent revealed that security personnel, especially the Aviation Security (AVSEC), a department under the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), also connive with touts in the airport environment by collecting the sum of N1000 per shift daily from them for the touts to continue their activities without harassment.
Our correspondent, who carried out the investigation at the airport for almost a week, disclosed that staff of one of the major cleaning services at the airport, Patovilki Industrial Planner Ltd, also plays an active role in touting activities at the airport.
For instance, some of the cleaning service staff engage in the sales of duly stamped yellow cards to passengers between N2000 and N3000, depending on the passenger's bargaining power, without medical examination as required while the same card is received at N1000 at a Port Health Office at the airport, after medical examination of impending travelers to some countries, which still require it.
The same staff also abandon their cleaning jobs and engage in the sales of keys, bags (Ghana Must Go bags) and other accessories at the airport, rather than store owners who rented shops from the FAAN at exorbitant rates.
The collaboration between security personnel and touts go as far as the screening points within the airport.
For instance, some of them engage in money laundering for some passengers by ensuring that their luggage stashed with foreign currencies are not checked at the screening points by security agents.
For them to do this, the touts approach the security agents ahead of their clients who now bargain with them, depending on the amount of money involved.
It was further revealed that some of the touts rent trolleys from the company in charge of trolleys at the airport at N500 each and use such to besiege air travelers inside vehicular traffic even to the car parks within the airport.
The touts charge between N500 and N1000 from such travelers for helping them to carry their luggage to the departure terminal.
A source at the airport told our correspondent that some of the touts have access to restricted areas within the airport even without a valid On-Duty-Card (ODC), which is a requirement for accessing some areas at the airport.
“It is unbelievable that some of the people you see inside the terminal don’t have anything doing at all at the airport. When those accompanying travelers are denied entry into the terminal by security operatives, touts have direct access to the terminal without being challenged. They have so much penetrated the security personnel attached to the airport to the extent that some of us who are airport workers are afraid that these people may cause mayhem for us one day," the source told our correspondent.
“In fact, through their activities, some air travelers have been robbed while others duped, and these people also pilfer checked in luggage. AVSEC look the other way round because they collect the sum of N1000 from them per shift daily. They share the largesse among themselves later.
“They also engage in money laundering for several people. They go as far as taking their luggage beyond the check-in areas. Though, they do it with the connivance of security personnel at the airport. In fact, some of them go as if they are engaging in prostitution,” the source added.
It would be recalled that about a year ago, officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested an official of FAAN, Mr. Akinyele Adetula, for trying to launder $1.4m for one Mr. Ifeanyi Urama, a bureau de change operator who also doubles as a clearing and forwarding agent.
According to the EFCC, the suspect was able to pass through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) security checks because he was wearing his identity card and therefore did not draw any suspicion.