By Adeola Aderounmu
The theft of valuable and cherished personal belongings from the baggage of passengers arriving at the Murtala International Airport is a big deal.
It is time to call out the management of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the directors and management at Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc to answer questions on why travellers’ items continue to grow wings on a daily basis when they arrive at the International Airport, Ikeja.
One anonymous Mr. Lagbaja spoke on behalf of NAHCO when Premium Times made enquiries about the pilfering of baggage at Lagos airport. His comment was typical: no passenger had come forward to report the matter to NAHCO!
OK! We are doing so now. I am making a report on behalf of thousands of people who have complained about these criminal activities over the past decade.
The truth of the matter is that there are criminals working at the Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) and they are responsible for the theft of items from travellers’ bags daily.
Arik airlines spokesman Ola Adebanji said that missing items from aircraft was commonplace worldwide citing instances from the US. I think it would have been better for this man to keep quiet rather than exposing his ignorance on public relation management.
Then the NAHCO employee continued, our Mr. Lagbaja said that if such incident occurred, the passenger had the right to report the matter to the airline he or she used for the trip. “We advise the victim to formally report the incident either to the airline or the Consumer Protection Unit of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority at the airport”.
Why don’t people report the theft of their personal belongings that occurred before the baggage hits the conveyor belt? The answer is too simple. People don’t believe that reporting the thefts will bring back their belongings. Almost every traveller knows that it is no-brainer to tackle FAAN or NAHCO workers at the Airport on missing items.
The question and answer sessions that will go along with the reporting which may include making a police report can cause a fragile traveller to develop a heart attack. So, indeed nobody will be willing to make any report. No one has the time to drag issues with airport authority on missing items. It is different when the suitcases or baggage do not arrive. Then it’s normal to take up such cases with the concerned airline.
Somebody or some people at MMA, FAAN or NAHCO should be getting sacked if the seriousness of the matter is to be handled appropriately. The undeniable fact is that criminals open the baggage of travellers and they pick out items that now include hand-held computer tablets. These disgraceful acts take place usually between landing and when the bags hit the conveyor belts.
Some of my friends who visited Nigeria recently (this year 2014) had tales of woes to tell about the items that were stolen from their baggage. I am not talking about one person only; I am talking about a group of people whose items were ransacked between landing and the conveyor belts. Gifts bought for friends, family and even children went missing.
This week, I read how several passengers are also lamenting about their missing shoes, bags, gift items and other accessories that they thought should be saved in their travelling bags. The report was in the Premium Times of June 16 2014. How did criminals get on the employment services at such a sensitive place as the International Airport?
There are so many investigations that need to be done regarding these persistent criminal activities. For example, what is the connection between the length of time it takes for the baggage to hit the conveyor belt and the numbers of items/ goods stolen?
Are the long delays in delivering the baggage to the conveyor belts connected to the fact that these men and women who are off loading the aeroplane need so much time to open and pilfer travellers’ baggage?
Is it part of the employment contract that you must be sticky-or light-fingered to work at that department at the airport? Who takes away all the stolen items? Are the stolen items delivered or remitted to the bosses and directors and shared among all the “criminal” workers?
What is going on at MMA? What is going on at FAAN? What is going on at NAHCO? Who are we going to hold responsible for the missing items? The workers? The Directors? The Board?
When some of us complain about these things, we always hear some people say “noo o!!” that was before! Nobody is stealing again at the airports! We have heard similar stories before at the sea-port; we hear…noo o! No more port rats! Then importers started welding their cars and vehicles like armoured tanks before they hit the international waterways heading to Nigeria!
But the denials on the part of Nigerian airport authority or NAHCO are the usual lies! There are definitely still criminals working at MMA, just the same way the sea-port rats never left.
It is not acceptable when airline or airport officials state that these criminal activities are common around the world. There is a difference between lost and found items or forgotten items and the items that are deliberately removed from travellers’ bags by airport workers. The act of pilfering is not common around the world. In any case there can never be a good reason why criminals should be employed and allowed to remove things from our bags at MMA.
Are there cameras at the terminals to follow the arrival of aeroplanes at the terminals? Are there cameras to follow the progress of baggage until they hit the conveyor belts? At what point exactly do these “airport rats” have the courage to open bags and suitcases and remove items? Who is the head of this organised crime at the airport? Is it something that is approved by the directors of FAAN and NAHCO?
Someone heads the human resources department where these criminals were approved for employment. That person’s integrity is also at stake here. So also are the managers or directors in charge of landing and transportation of baggage from the aircrafts to the arrival hall.
Again, many people are too busy and do not have the time to bring about their cases to the appropriate authorities. This is because once the items are gone, there are no means to trace or find them. People are tired of the way things work in Nigeria. They don’t trust the system and they just “conform” and move on with their lives.
The severity of this painful experience of pilfering cannot be over emphasized. My friends lost so many valuables that they were almost crying when they narrated their stories. This cannot continue and this essay should not be treated as a rant. There is a need for action and I hope that the directors or board members who are tagged in this essay will find a reason to call an emergency meeting to address the embarrassment that the staffs of MMA/FAAN/NAHCO are causing them and their reputations.
Some of us have great difficulties to work out the functions of the various uniform people at the airport. We get totally confused by the several people doing the job meant for one computer or a simple machine!
We need answers (and not denials) from the management of both FAAN and NAHCO.
FAAN is a service organization statutorily charged to manage all commercial airports in Nigeria and to provide service to both passengers and airlines. Its managing director and chief executive at the corporate headquarters in Ikeja Engr Saleh Dunoma must ensure that stealing from passengers’ baggage ends immediately. He cannot claim to be new on the job.
Mr. Wendell Emeka Ogunedo is FAAN’s director of security services. Dear Mr. Ogunedo, how secured are our baggage when they arrived at the airport in Ikeja?
Hajia Salamatu Umar-Eluma is in charge of FAAN’s human resources. Ma, does your office run a background check on those people moving our baggage at the airport in Ikeja? Is it NAHCO’s fault that our things are stolen?
Barrister Ikechi Uko is the director of administration. Can he tell us how security measures will be administered to stop this mess? FAAN must work together with the other agencies at MMA to ensure that they put an immediate end to pilfering at MMA.
NAHCO’s mission is to be the leading service provider in the African market. Unfortunately all the core values of NAHCO are questionable with this permanent trend of stealing from passenger’s baggage. There is no integrity when bags are opened and things stolen from them. There is no respect for individuals when NAHCO workers steal from passengers.
The chairman of NAHCO Mr. Suleiman Yahyah must call his workers to order. Nigerians need to be sure that the stolen items are not ending up on his desks!
The vice-chairman is NAHCO is Mr. Denis Hasdenteufel. How is he working together with the chairman to ensure that criminals are not working for NAHCO AVIANCE?
Altogether there are about 12 directors at NAHCO. Their areas of responsibilities and job descriptions are other areas that would be of interest when some of us look for information on NAHCO’s website. It is clear however that NAHCO is responsible for aircraft handling, amongst other services that it provides at the airport.
An average traveller does not really know the interrelationship between FAAN and NAHCO or their terms of agreement. People just want to be sure that when they travel to Nigeria that their bags are not tampered with. As a people heading to Nigeria we don’t want to develop any panic or heart attack just because some thieves working for NAHCO or FAAN are going to steal our personal belongings or the gift items in our baggage.
Those who manage the Lagos Airport must stop living in denial. They should wake up; smell the coffee and live up to their responsibilities. What is important is for them to educate their workers. NAHCO for example must ensure that its core values do not exist only on papers, but in actions. By all or any means, those whom we entrust with our baggage must stop stealing our personal belongings.