The Day I Was Arrested At Frankfurt Airport

Adeola Aderounmu

I’d wanted to tell this story since December 2010 when I was arrested by the German Police at Frankfurt Airport.

Sonala’s article stating MMA as a metaphor of a Non-Governing Governance gave me the needed impetus.

I have a butterfly knife that I love so much that I always carry it with me. It serves as a utility tool. Last December I took it with me to Nigeria. Somehow it ended up in my backpack where I also have the basic things that my children need.

We left Nigeria on Dec. 28 after celebrating Christmas in Lagos.

We went through rigorous checks at MMA. They turned everything inside out and we even went through the scanners and all their cancer-inducing machines.

You can imagine my shock when I was stopped at Frankfurt the next morning and ordered to step aside. The police were called immediately and I was interrogated and made to give a written statement.

They found my butterfly knife in my bag. They have a functional scanner there in Frankfurt. Or maybe they are not looking at just the human physiology like our brethren back at MMA.

They told me that I could be required in the court of law and a notification will be sent to me about that. I have waited since December 2010 but it appears the case was not pursued further. Hopefully this essay will not stir it up again.

The officers took my knife and wanted to retain it as an exhibit. I guessed they will throw it away. I told them that I really cherished the knife and that it meant something to me. They were a bit surprised but respected my views.

They said I can only retain the knife on one condition. I have to go out of the waiting hall and check in at Lufthansa’s desk. To save my knife it became necessary for me to check in at a point of transit. I took one of our baggage with me, put the knife inside and checked it in.

Even though I had the status of a “potential terrorist” I was still allowed to exercise my rights and to choose what I wanted to do with my knife.

We had luck that there was ample time to our connecting flight. I was still able to fly with my family. They were waiting for me at another point but they could see me. The arrest was something I had to sort out alone since I was the one carrying the bag.

If a butterfly knife on the side pocket of a backpack cannot be detected at MMA, I could only imagine the possibility of a terrorist being able to blow up the entire airport in these days of micro- and nano-technologies.

I remembered one day in 2002 when my things were taken from me at MMA. I was not given any choice at all. They just “obtained” me like that. They took my things and I left Nigeria with such a sad experience. The story is the same today. When I leave Nigeria these days I travel light.

There are several sad things about MMA that Sonala didn’t mention. I trust that he wanted to save Nigeria from some serious embarrassment.
MMA should actually have been converted to a local airport altogether. On developmental scale, MMA is on the same level as Iyana Ipaja because Oshodi is far better these days.

There is nothing about MMA that fits into international standard. I was embarrassed that my family first’s visit to Nigeria took them through this point of entry. There was nothing to explain because they have read many of my essays.

The traffic in Lagos almost made us cry and the work rate of NEPA not only made us deaf temporarily, it also ensured that my kids found a special toy in Nigeria-the torchlight. How they loved it!

I have also wondered about the crowd at the airport. Is it possible to divert the crowd to Onikan, Adamasingba or National stadium so they can provide the spectatorship that our football games are longing for?

I was afraid I could be mishandle by the thousands of uniform men at MMA and that was the reason I didn’t take any picture at all. Too many angry faces looking for preys!

It is as if all the security men in Lagos are based at MMA. The variant of uniforms will make a good thesis for a post-graduate student.
Someone should take the offer so that the rest of us can understand why thousands of uniformed people are stationed at an overcrowded point like MMA. Is that the meaning of double wahala?

There are so many waste materials, big and small, different forms and shapes, electrical and others littering all the premises of the airport. The interior of the airport is too stuffy, hot, disorganized and haphazard. It pains the eyes.

It took more than 2½ hours for us to retrieve our luggage when we arrived that fateful evening that eventually turned to night at MMA. I had to tell my cousin to take my wife and children home while I waited for the remaining luggage. My brother in law it was who kept record of the time. I’m happy he didn’t faint in the waiting process.

There was one funny but sad situation also that same night.
One of our luggages was not on the major conveyor belt. We were told it could have been sent to the small or extra conveyor belt. Bu alas!
They can’t find the guy who has the key to the conveyor. It was a sort of crazy-looking conveyor that led directly from the outside to the inside and it is used for transporting wheel chairs and sorts into the main waiting hall. After a long wait, they found the guy with the key.

When we got back to our base in Europe my brother in-law politely told me that it has taken just 20 minutes since we arrived and we are already driving home. What was I supposed to say?

He didn’t have to tell me about the absence of crowd or uniformed people. He didn’t have to say the rest. I’ve been living with it for nearly a decade.

The level of security at MMA is appalling. The long wait and long queues are surely pretenses that someone or some people are working hard. It’s all nonsense. The things that take you 5 minutes at other airports around the world can take you several hours at MMA. If you have a heart disease or you are hypertensive you should either avoid MMA or take loads of medication with you.

The sad stories about MMA are inexhaustible.

I was also frustrated that I have to fill some forms as I entered Nigeria even though it state clearly on the top that it is for foreigners. And every time I gave the form back there was something I didn’t do right. I was turning brain-dead on the queues and I can’t believe that officer expected me to write my full address on that form. Who knows there the forms are heading?

As far as MMA is concerned it is a serious embarrassment to Nigeria. To call MMA a disaster or a disgrace is an understatement. It is not organized at all. No one should hope for a terror attack at that airport, the fatalities and consequences would be devastating. Let’s not imagine it. MMA is the worst airport I have been to. It is what you get when you have a Non-Governing Governance.

4 thoughts on “The Day I Was Arrested At Frankfurt Airport

  1. Hello Adeola Aderounmu,
    After reading your story about your experience in MMA, it turns out to be no diffrent from the experience’s of other Nigerians ans certainly no news. We Nigerians are fond of complaining virtually about everything and how bad our country is without thinking about how we can collectively solve the problem of the country. The bad news is that no one is going to make things right except we Nigerians and if your brother inlaw is digusted with the system in Nigeria, then he should stay in his country. Going to Nigeria as a Nigerian is optional and you can stay in Europe where you apparently have your family. Let’s all look at the solution and not the problem!


    • Ladi, did you read the essay? How are you thinking?

      Is it okay that the scanners or security agents at MMA missed a potential terror weapon?

      Hundreds and possibly thousands of lives could be taken away just like that with a single terror attack at the airport.

      Those people are paid to discover such terror threats or weapons! Or maybe the machines are bad, so blame the machines that I travelled with a dangerous weapon.

      Are you not aware that the airport has a management authority or are you not conscious of the fact that Nigeria is supposed to have a government that ensures that things work. What solutions are you looking for?

      Let the people who have the jobs of governance and management of the country be held accountable.

      I am doing my part by pointing out the faults, let those who have the authority fix the problems. If that was my job I will do it well the same way I served Nigeria over the years at my own level.

      The MMA mgt Authority should not think that the standard at MMA is ok, because it is not. It is bullshit and maybe you should know that this is my blog and I am entitled to my opinions.

      Ladi, start your blog and proffer solutions to the problems in Nigeria or is anyone holding you back? Give us the solutions without telling us what the problems are!

      I can’t respond fully to your shortsighted response. It goes a long way to show the nature of our problems when people refused to think or reason correctly.

      With shallow expressions like yours and the attack on the people mentioned in my essay, Nigeria is getting no where.


  2. Dear Adeola,
    You are doing a goog job, but who pays for all this?
    Corruption is the root cause of Nigeria’s problem. I want to request you to publish the names of all corrupt public Officers in Nigeria since independence so that the younger ones should know them.


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