Exclusive Report: Racketeering at Nigerian Airports and Border Checkpoints

Babandede, Comptroller- General
Muhammed Babandede MFR Photo Credit: www.immigration.gov.ng

The new Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service,Mohammed Babandede, MFR, who was appointed into office on the 26th of May by President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the press at a media conference at the headquarters in Abuja on the 31st of May 2016 where he outlined his vision and agenda for the para-military organization.

One of the points of the agenda that he spoke about during the press conference was efforts to stop racketeering at the Nigerian border posts.

According to him, he was conscious of racketeering occurring among NIS officers preying on international passport applicants and travelers at various borders/checkpoints in the country and would set up an anti-corruption squad to check-mate these activities. “All zonal coordinators and state comptrollers must put an end to this act of gross misconduct by the operatives,” Babandede said.

I made some findings and discovered that the checkpoints have been turned into a cash center by the officers of the service that forcefully extort people of their hard earned money while leaving the country through the airport especially which is assumed to be the exclusive reserve of the nouveau riche.

An Immigration officer at the International Airport Abuja Photo credit: www.news.yahoo.com
An Immigration officer at the International Airport Abuja. Photo credit: www.news.yahoo.com

Steve Temitope, a Telecommunications Executive stated that the officers are not interested in other documents aside from a passport. Then, they begin to extort travelers one after the other.

He continued, “my last international trip was very frustrating. I was not handling cash but I was shown the way to the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) so that I can give them money. One of my colleagues coughed out as much as 100 dollars before he could proceed. After this ordeal, I have made a resolution to always keep some funds handy while travelling.”

In a chat with Abosede Taiwo, a legislative aide to a former member of the National Assembly, she corroborated Temitope’s personal account by saying that if the passport holder is entering or leaving the coutry as a first time visa holder; the person is usually seriously extorted.

She said sadly, “despite our nationality as a Nigerians, they treat us like foreigners in our country either in outbound or inbound [flights] while they treat the foreigners like kings and queens.”

Ola Bolaji, PR Manager for a Satellite Television Network explained that his first international trip was crazy. He said he was wearing attire that looked like that of a clergy. He insisted Jesus would be upset if he were to offer bribes.

He said the Immigration officers tried to delay him but let him off the hook when he told them his flight was 3 hours away. In despair, he ended, “every trip is always something else with those grey hounds at the airport.”

Iyes Dan, an On Air Personality in Port Harcourt, Rivers State put his experience at the airport in a few words. He said “I taught them a lesson and they also dealt with me before they realized I worked with the fourth estate of the realm.” The fourth estate (or fourth power) is a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized. “Fourth Estate” most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press”.

An officer of the organization who spoke anonymously said, “I cannot deny such don’t happen but courteous officers will ask and collect with decency. However, this is not peculiar to us [Nigeria] only. It happens in every country.”

According to him, “I witnessed an occurrence at the Benin Republic border where a couple and host of others were being delayed despite having their passports by officials when they could not part with their hard-earned money. The same happened at the borders from Nigeria and Ghana where the officers were more interested in money than the documents.”