• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Nigerian airports: How not to arrive in any nation

Nigerian airports: How not to arrive in any nation

And before you ask how many international airports I have passed through, I have been to a significant number across six continents. At least I have passed through over 150 countries in 78 countries.

I think that should be enough to have the experiential knowledge of how some of these things work.

The key issue is that Nigeria does not want to change.

Nigerians love the chaos that envelopes them daily. It appears that “anyhowness” has been embedded into our social DNA, such that whatever efforts are made to get us to drop our ways of doing things will meet stiff opposition.

I have to admit that MMIA Terminal 2 is more decent than the old terminal, but from my experience in the last few months, you could still see that it is fast becoming infected.

Please let the signs at the arrival halls do their jobs.

There is no need to station an officer to tell passengers where to queue. The signs were bold enough, and if anyone made a mistake and stayed in the wrong queue, they would correct themselves. It is not a crime.

It appears Nigeria Immigration Service has far more officers than is needed because I do not see why you should have up to five to six officers carving out job specifications for “Yellow Fever” traffic control of passengers.

“Welcome sir, how was your flight? Go here, go there, stay here, and stay there.” six well-trained officers? What a waste of human resources!

I have cried out before, questioning why we should have NDLEA and DSS check passenger passports before sending them to the immigration officers. That, too, is a huge waste of manpower. All over the world, the best practice is that a single officer stamps you in or stamps you out. The country should have a central security database accessible to all agencies.

This unnecessary inter-agency trust deficit is itself a security risk. That was one of the weaknesses of the American system before 9/11, and after a thorough overhaul of internal security, the agencies got merged. That is why the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) handles both customs and immigration with the support of the US Department . of Homeland Security officers who carry out oversight functions in real time.

That is what I have obtained in virtually all the advanced economies of the world that I have travelled to in the last few years.

The US has even stopped stamping passports. They simply scan you in and scan you out. In some cases, you do it yourself; they just direct you where to place your passport. Even if you check in yourself at the airline counter, print your boarding passes and baggage tags, affix them to your bags, and take them to the counter to drop. SIMPLE LIFE.

Yes, we pay for trolleys in many other countries; in most US airports, it is $6.

But what does it take to actualize some of these workable things in Nigeria?

Infrastructurally, it is next to nothing, but mentally, it is Sysiphian. We love suffering.

Across the world, interactions between the immigration officer and the passenger are recorded live with a supervisor listening in. Some other countries have video cameras that capture everything, so issues of forcing first-time passengers (as is mostly the case here) to slip in dollar notes inside their passports are not there.

I experienced this in India over 7 years ago.

In Indonesia, I saw a great innovation where passengers have a HDTV screen that captures from the time their luggage leaves the belly of the aircraft onto the carousel, then down to the hall for retrieval. You watch everything on screen.

I would not want to go into my experiences at either Changi International Singapore, Narita, and Haneda both in Tokyo, or even Incheon International Seoul; those are what airports should aspire to be. If you miss your flight to Changi, you won’t even know you missed anything. It is home in itself.

Like in Shanghai, AI has already run a full security scan on you before you get to the counter, so oftentimes, you are waved to go carry your luggage.

Sometime in February, I was pleasantly shocked when I landed at the brand new terminal of Freetown International Airport in Lungi, Sierra Leone. The seamlessness of the organisation was mind-blowing.

There were only five non-passengers at the baggage collection point. Two from the airline, two from Customs, one airport police officer, and nobody was marketing his exceptional skill of helping you carry your luggage. You would experience the same thing in Niamey, Senegal, Mauritania, and Ethiopia, among many other African countries, but not in Nigeria, especially Lagos.

Nigeria is the only place where you have a long table of over 15 officers from different agencies all competing against one another by shouting at the passengers to come to their own stand at the same time. Is it not shameful that officers would be shouting as if they were market women at Oyigbo selling pepper and crayfish and hustling for customers?

Sometimes they even fight amongst themselves over a quest to “obtain” a passenger. National shame.

Then, as soon as you step out of the hall, all hell will be let loose on you, from taxi drivers to money changers to touts hustling for everything under the sun, who will besiege you as if you are a lamb on its way to a slaughterhouse.

At the taxi pickup stand, your harassment continues; they would not even allow the person who came to pick you up to see space to park. At the same time, touts masquerading as airport officials would want to clamp the wheels of your car. What is this country?

You would encounter able-bodied men and women who would be struggling with you to put your luggage into your own car, after which they would besiege you with demands.

How can a country grow and develop on the back of “anyhowness” as a national lifestyle?

Dear Festus Keyamo, you promised to tackle some of these shameful acts during your oath-taking; it is going to be a year.

Decca writes from Lagos.