Officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other security operatives have expressed concern about the extortion of passengers by the officers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the NDLEA officials have become a menace at the airport, and damaging the image of the country at a time the federal government is championing the ease of doing business.
Source at the airport told THISDAY that NDLEA officials usually stop passengers during check-in process and force them to part with various amount of money, failing which they would threaten to prevent them from travelling. In some cases, the officials, according the sources, sometimes delayed passengers that refused to give them money to the extent that some of them missed their flights.
Inside sources also confirmed that the illicit activities of the NDLEA officials have become a menace to air travellers and other airport users, noting that the anti-narcotic officials have become so unscrupulous that they do not border about any recrimination or punishment for their actions.
â€œThere are extortions going on at the airport but the major culprits are the officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. They are the worst of the uniform personnel at the airport. They will stop some passengers who have met all the conditions to travel and request for $500. Not many of the passengers know their rights and due to fear they will start negotiating with the NDLEA officials. Some will price $200. This thing has been going on for a long time.
â€œWhat is very bad about their illicit activities is that sometimes they continue to delay the passengers who refused to give them money until they miss their flights. This is very sad. No passenger should be stopped by officials of NDLEA, unless that passenger is suspected to be carrying drugs. So NDLEA officials do not have the right to stop any passenger who has met all the conditions to travel,â€ the official said.
Some of the airport officials told THISDAY that while other security operatives cannot be exonerated, the activities were not as menacing and callous like that of NDLEA officials who did not have any scruples forcing travellers to miss their flights.
THISDAY contacted the spokesman of NDLEA, Jonah Achema who said that he was not in a position to talk about the issues. He directed this reporter to the NDLEA Commander of the airport, who he said, was in the best position to talk on the issue.
â€œI am in Abuja. I cannot comment on the issue but you can talk to the Commander in charge of the airport,â€ Achema said.
THISDAY spoke with the Commander of NDLEA at the airport, Ahmadu Garba who said that he would not comment on the issue but added that he would be interested to get to the bottom of the allegation. Garba also insisted that he would not speak on phone about the issue.
THISDAY also spoke to senior official of FAAN who confirmed the extortion by NDLEA officials at the airport but said that as the managers of the airport, the agency cannot do anything until a victim of their excesses make official report to FAAN, describing the action of the NDLEA officials as nefarious.
The source also said that after the recent reorganisation of security apparatus at the airport in which manual screening was removed and digital screening introduced, that NDLEA was not supposed to be at the airport, â€œbut we donâ€™t know why they came back.â€
â€œThat the NDLEA officials are extorting money from passengers is true but there is nothing FAAN can do; unless somebody who falls victim or another person reports the issue to us. Yes, they are damaging the image of our airport. I heard they went to the Presidency to work their way back to the airport because after the reorganisation they were not supposed to return to the airport,â€ the FAAN official told THISDAY.