We are all finally back in Lagos, but not without some drama! Having arrived on time with SAA, we had to wait over 2 hours for our bags to arrive in the ‘baggage hall’ at Murtala Muhammed Airport. This is nothing surprising and having checked in 10 bags, I was just happy to see all of them spit out onto the conveyer belt. Evidently ‘priority’ labels on the bags mean nothing at MMA!
The interesting piece of drama however was when we were leaving the airport building. As is the usual procedure – you have to dodge, beg and bribe the vultures that are known as ‘customs officials’. They really are a scab on this country. They are the first Nigerians that many people encounter and no one I know has ever said it was a pleasure to have been welcomed by them…
As I was waiting for my bags, I walked around the luggage collection area and watched how they would stand there scoping out who they are likely to get a sizeable bribe from. Then they all dash over to the identified victim, halt them and demand that they search through all of their bags. Typically they are looking for expats and affluent Nigerians, using as much intimidation as possible to try and speed up the payment process.
It was when we were leaving the airport that the most bizarre thing happened. A Nigerian man, as he was approaching customs, suddenly pulled out a small Nigerian flag and started waving it frantically. His ‘entourage’ were pushing his trolley with his bags and were stopped by customs. He refused to be drawn into the arguing and bickering that ensued, choosing instead, to stand there and flap his flag constantly. And what happened next is something that would not and could not happen in any other international airport in the world.
The customs officials simply refused to let ANYONE leave the airport until this dispute was settled. Effectively, everyone had to wait until the bribe was paid before being able to depart, which took approximately 15 minutes. Can you imagine heathrow not allowing anyone to leave the airport because of a handful of corrupt officials???
As a friend of mine said to me once : WAWA. (West Africa Wins Again)…