Extortion at airports is beyond airlines

The aviation sector was again in the news throughout last week over the news that a  female staff of Arik Airline was caught napping while engaging in extortion at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

According to the news, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) officials caught the staff soliciting bribes from a passenger at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the airport.

She was not only apprehended by the airport security officials for investigations but was immediately suspended from office by the airline.

While everyone awaits the outcome of the investigations and the subsequent consequences awaiting the perpetrator, the issue points to the fact that extortion has become a norm at the Lagos airport.

There is a syndicate responsible for this criminal practice and it’s not limited to airlines staff members but others responsible for carrying out different functions both within the terminal and the sterile areas.

Besides airline staff, all the uniform personnel including those of FAAN manning the different strategic places at the airport get involved in the extortion of innocent passengers.

Right from the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to immigration officials, Nigeria Customs, Police, Air Force personnel among the numerous lists particularly at the international wing of the airport have turned the crime into their profession.

Most of the time, many innocent travellers are forced to part with huge amounts demanded from the syndicate who look for flimsy excuses to extort them.

In most cases, passengers who could not meet up with their demands often suffer frustrations and, in some cases, miss their flights while in the camp of the extortionists waiting for their families to rally round to bail them.

The worst victims are those travelling with ‘virgin passports’ who the syndicate take advantage of their naivety to make frivolous demands from before they are let go.

At times, when some of this personnel are transferred out of the Lagos airport, they either lobby their ways back or come around to operate behind the scene because they have been so engrossed in the evil act.

Therefore, the latest extortion by the Arik Airline staff should not be limited to the airlines alone but other airport workers cutting across all ranks and files of the uniform personnel.

Activities of these people are making a serious mess of the ease of doing business policy of the government at the airports.

There is an urgent need for the intelligence arm of the Federal Government to get involved in beaming searchlight on this group and not a case of limiting the scope to airlines alone.

The need for the involvement of intelligence is pertinent in the light of the security situation around the country which has not exempted the airports.

Terrorists and other undesirable elements who are ever ready to use any means to achieve their goals may lure any willing airport worker with jaw-dropping cash to penetrate the airports and this may spell doom for the entire nation. The federal government must act fast.

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