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Insight & Analysis - April 29, 2022

5 Horror Stories from Lagos Airports

Unprofessional conduct is becoming a lifestyle in Nigeria’s aviation industry. Both Nigerians and foreign travellers recount their horror stories at Lagos airports.

Aside from the usual tales of bribery and corruption, several airports lack essential services while remitting about $16.7 billion to the federal government. Here are some horror stories about Lagos airports from the experienced of travellers.

Nigerian producer Kemi Adetiba shared her experience with officials at the Airport

In her words, she was about to be fined N50,000 for having a personal item.

This was during her 2018 flight from Paris to Lagos. She said, “I got into Lagos at about 2 am, and this is where a series of unfortunate events unfolded… Right there at my country’s airport”.

From the immigration and picking up my stuff was very fast. But as I neared the customs, I could tell something wasn’t right when I noticed the mischievous glance from a lady standing there. I was still far from her when she motioned for my porter and me to come to a halt.

She had a new perfume she got for a friend and her small travel speakers. After checking the luggage and finding nothing, the customs lady “Ojo” focused on the perfume and the little travel speakers. 


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She requested the receipt for the speakers. This was a shock as both items were personal items to Kemi. The custom lady walks her to a counter, pulls out a booklet, drops it, retrieves another, then opens a page and says, “you know we charge duty on products over N50,000, right?”

Noticing that Kemi was not giving in to her demands, she became nervous and pulled different pranks. When Kemi demanded to see her superior, she became anxious and called for valuation.

As Kemi was not ready to give in, she transferred the issue to another customs officer, “Mr Eni O.”. After exchanging batons, Ms Ojo fled from the scene.

Mr Eni pulled the exact string and became nervous when he noticed that she had taken note of his name. He freaked out and asked why she was taking down his name. She responded, “the reason they wear name tags is so that people can be identified”. With this, he became more nervous.

Unprofessional behaviour of customs officers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos 

From the anonymous passenger’s point of view, it’s unfortunate that foreigners have an easier time entering Nigeria than Nigerians. 

I alighted from my flight at 8 p.m., but I had to wait nearly two hours for my passport to be stamped due to authorities’ man-made bottlenecks. Also, the airport management was a horrible experience with the exit tunnel not being illuminated to the extent that people had to use their phones as torchlights. As a result, Lagos touts, and odd faces harassed many people as they left the airport. This is a security issue that must be addressed.

Christiana’s near-crash experience that United Nigeria Airlines called “exaggeration”

Despite the attempt of the authorities of United Nigeria Airlines to sweep the June 4, 2021 incident they called an exaggeration under the carpet, Christiana, one of the passengers, has something else to say.

She said, “I don’t mean to spoil business for the airline, but their claim that our experiences were exaggerated is not true because I saw my life flash before my eyes. We got to Abuja, we couldn’t land, and we were suspended in the air for over 2 hours, and the air hostesses were crying.

Suddenly, the aircraft started making a loud noise, tilting left and right. We all thought it would crash. I was also 99.9% sure that the plane would crash, as we were screaming and praying. The aircraft went up high, and we experienced that for over 30 minutes”.

She expected the airline to contact the people on the trip before stating nothing occurred on that day. How can the airline argue that the incident that caused several people to vomit on the plane was exaggerated?”

Bribing my way out of Lagos: A non-Nigerian on Transit

Unfortunately, I was not with mine because it was not needed. This is because passengers travelling through Lagos do not need to get vaccinated against yellow fever.

The South African travel restrictions are a little hazy on whether a vaccination card is required if you are only transiting through a country that requires immunisation. I should have taken my card with me, but I was in California, and I never had that injection.

While there, a stout guy in a government outfit and spectacles approached each passenger to examine their yellow card. When he got to me, I stated that I was only passing through and didn’t have it.

The man said, “Oh no, you must have one,” even after telling him that I was just in transit. He then asked me to come over to another side. He motioned me to a desk and said, “This big problem. You pay me something to make it better. If you don’t, I will take you to the government office and they will fine you $150. You just pay me $15”.

My initial instinct was to be harsh, but I wasn’t sure he was incorrect, and the consequences were minor, so I decided to play along. I said, “Let’s negotiate. I have Euros, and I’ll give you 5 Euros which was $7”.

Because the man insisted it was little, I took a sealed United amenity kit from my suitcase from the Houston – Lagos trip and presented it to him before being permitted to go.

Lack of amenities in MMIA despite the $100 passengers service charge

Many Murtala Mohammed International Airport travellers bemoaned the terminal’s insufficient capacity, faulty air conditioning, and outmoded carousel (conveyor belt), which has failed to work most of the time.

Passengers arriving at the airport and others checking in to depart the nation claimed that the amenities at the terminal, which handles over 60% of Nigerians travelling abroad, had degraded.

Given that the country is currently in the dry season, the terminal has gotten extremely hot due to most air conditioners’ inefficiency. The conveyor belt has also broken down, resulting in flight delays and heat exhaustion for people working at the airport.

Also, the passenger facilitation system, Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE), replaced by RESA when the International Aeronautical Telecommunications Society (SITA) withdrew its services in May last year, still has problems hampering passenger movement.

As a result of the poor amenities, in 2016, a passenger trekked for miles from the parking lot to the airport and vice versa, resulting in severe back pain. 

Also, the vehicle park toll gate broke, and the security guards took full advantage of it. Instead of paying at the cashier’s counter, the security guards would collect a token from car owners and allow them to pass.


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