Despite the recent executive order issued by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo banning airport security officers from manually checking travelers’ bags, some security agencies at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos continue to manually ransack passengers’ luggage.
Our correspondent reported that manual luggage searches, which have been banned since June 1, 2017, are still being utilized by officers of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), along with some personnel of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigeria Police Force bomb squad, and the Nigeria Customs Service.
Reporting from the Lagos airport on Thursday, he observed that NAQS officers shirked their original assignments - ensuring imports/exports meet with international standards - to stop travelers to check their bags for any food they were taking out of the country. Some of the foods these agencies illegally searched for included processed foods like gari, blended egusi (melon), crayfish, ogbono, ukwa, bitter leaf, and yam.
The executive order mandated that security officers remove their search tables and instead use the scanning machines. However, various security agencies have simply moved their tables to the airport entrance gates, allowing them to continue to extort innocent passengers under the pretext of manually checking travelers’ bags.
Our correspondent revealed that NAQS officers forced travelers to pay N2,000 before allowing them to carry food with them while traveling.
Fearing they will miss their flights, passengers often pay the sum to expedite the check-in process.
A traveler who spoke to our correspondent disclosed that she was not happy with the sum paid and added that no receipt was issued for the money she paid, which contravenes the principles and tenets of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
Passengers on Royal Air Maroc who paid N2,000 to NAQS officers to enable them travel with their food items protested at the airport tarmac after another set of NAQS officers seized their bags for containing food. Narrating the scene to our correspondent, a passenger who was viciously angry described the situation as illegal and pure extortion.
“At the early hours of 14th of June, 2017, departing passengers on Royal Air Maroc were subjected to harrowing and mental torture by the men of NAQS. They set aside heaps of bags for retrievals of food items from same passenger from whom the service men had collected the non-receipted amount of N2,000 earlier at the departure. The situation eventually degenerated to a protest at the tarmac by passengers who accused the quarantine officers of extortion,” a passenger said.
Our correspondent gathered that similar incident transpired between NAQS officers and passengers of Royal Air Maroc was not different from the experience of passengers on an Air France-KLM flight on the June 7, 2017 and on Ethiopian Airline flight on June 13, 2016.