The Nigeria Police, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos Command yesterday arrested and paraded five suspected fake COVID-19 certificate racketeers at the airport, just as two others escaped.
The police alleged that the suspects, Achibong Idonrenyin, Moses Samuel, Popoola Adewala, Wale Aderele and Abdulmalik Ibrahim, major in selling fake COVID-19 certificates to unsuspecting travellers within the international wing of the airport.
They identified the suspects at large as Shehu Imam and Adeola Darlington, who work with Sky Blue Services limited, a cleaning service firm at the airport.
Briefing journalists yesterday in his office at the airport, the Airport Command Commissioner, Mr. Bature Umar, said the incident occurred on February 19, 2021, at the airport, where a British Airways passenger, Michael Osagbogun, was defrauded of the sum of N50, 000 for COVID-19 test.
According to the police commissioner, one of the suspects had approached Osagbogun promising to produce a COVID-19 test certificate for him.
Two of the suspects, Popoola Adewale and Adeola Dalington, who knew the airport environment well due to the nature of their jobs at the airport, allegedly took the victim to one of the toilet facilities at the airport where the sum of N50, 000 was obtained from him under the pretext of producing a valid COVID-19 negative certificate for the victim.
Umar explained that one of the suspects took the victim to DAT Cybercafé at No. 4, Oriyomi Street, Ikeja, where a fake COVID-19 certificate was eventually procured for him.
But, despite the payment of the money, he said the victim, who was on his way to London, United Kingdom, was denied boarding by the officials of the airline based on the fake COVID-19 certificate he presented at the counters.
He emphasised that the victim immediately raised the alarm, which led to the arrest of four suspects and a guarantor to one of the two suspects at large.
Umar explained that the combined team of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Aviation Security (AVSEC), a department in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), laid ambush for the suspects before they were arrested.
On interrogation, Umar explained that the suspects confessed to the crime, but claimed that it was their first time of engaging in criminal activity.
He, however, stated that further investigations by the police revealed that the suspects had been in the heinous crime for several months, vowing that the Command would not relent in his activities at exposing criminal activities within the airport.
According to him, “Upon interrogation, the suspects confessed to the crime, and the sum of N50, 000, which they obtained from the victim was recovered from them, while the computer used for the crime has been impounded and would be used as exhibit in the court of law.
“The passenger, as far as we are concerned, is a victim. He was the one who reported the case to us after he was denied boarding by the officials of the airline. So far, the suspects are providing information that will aid investigation by the police.”
The airport police boss said the suspects would be paraded in the court of competent jurisdiction next Friday, and advised the travelling public to be at alert because of the activities of criminals within the airport.