By Saulawa Tasiu Sanusi
It’s quite unfortunate what happened recently in respect to the arrest of a young lady, Zainab Aliyu who was wrongly accused by the Saudi authorities for bringing substance suspected to be Tramadol into the Kingdom. Thank God the young girl is now freed after so many in captivity followed by diplomatic talks. But, she may not be the last victim of old syndicate operating in Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA). I worked their for years and I have little idea of how they operate.
Some “Agents” operating in MAKIA specialised in facilitating the movement of “Luggages” at all costs to their new and existing customers. This is allegedly done with the full knowledge and CONSENT of almost all security agencies in that Airport. No exception. Some personnel of government security and regulatory agencies, aviation handlers (SAHCOL and NAHCO) as well as airline officials operating in that Airport are allegedly aware of this illegal practice. In fact, to some is an opportunity to “make it” anytime they are checking in particular airline. Notable airlines are Saudi Air, Egypt Air, Sudan Airways and the most notorious on this act is Ethiopian Airline.
How they operate is that some passengers and business men/women bring in excess luggage containing kolanut, maggi cube, sugar cane, faded cream, mentolathum, balm, aboniki, traditional wears (kaftan and atamfa), pepper, dry meat, etc,. The aim is to sell at exorbitant price when they reach their destination. Few among these “traders” will now have drugs concealed in addition to the aforementioned items. Once these luggage, normally “Ghana Must Go” and big boxes are handed over to the “Agent” prior to the arrival of the Aircraft he will charge exorbitant price. Thereafter, he will make arrangements with all security agents, aviation handlers and airline officials issuing tickets.
As soon as checking-in commences, such luggage will be coming into the departure hall in batches and move to the check-in counter. The syndicate will pretend as if they are helping innocent passengers in collecting boarding pass while at the same time tagging additional luggage in his/her name/ticket unknown to him/her. Some will do it after the passenger might have left the counter like the case of Zainab when one of the arrested suspects confessed that he checked from the system and tagged it under her name. Before you know it, they will usher in all the luggage into aircraft. On reaching to the destination they have another syndicate that claims such luggage at arrival hall. (Don’t know how it works their).
Last year when going for Hajj, six of us came late and none had check-in luggage. Before, we collected boarding pass, already those syndicate have checked in luggage in our name. Having worked there, I knew them and their names and we only exchanged pleasantries and left. But it was costly mistake I must confess. It will never repeat itself.
Another category of likely innocent victims are those that sell out their Kilo to any prospective buyer. Those syndicate operating at Airport sometimes they ask passenger without check-in luggage to sell out his or her kilo out the maximum allowable. They buy it with good price and tag a luggage under his name. That one too, may fall victim innocently.
Another dirty activity taking place is the group of some passengers that travel to and fro Saudi Arabia twice a week or more. They operate hand in hand with those syndicate and once the luggages are passed safely, they will board the same Aircraft and arrive with the same luggages. They are not their for religious rites, rather, they are their for business. Once they reach to their hotels, they will make contacts and you will see them selling the merchandise. As soon as they are done in a day or two, they will join next available flight back to Nigeria and ignore their return ticket. They will also come back again to Saudia next week. I asked one of these guys how is it possible to enter the Kingdom almost every week. He said all of them has several passports fraudulently obtained that they travel with. Some had passport issued in Kano with their normal names. They will then process another one in say Jigawa with different name and so on. Majority also had passport from Niger Republic they use to travel which almost everyone is aware in that Airport. This is known fact and it’s happening daily in that Airport.
In essence, if truly we want to curve the illegal activities taking place at MAKIA all government security and regulatory agencies, aviation handlers and airline officials should be thoroughly educated and monitored in their conduct. It’s connivance from several actors which must be fought at all cost. Otherwise, many innocent souls will become victim just like Zainab.
Those guys travelling up and down in a criminal way with different passports should be apprehended and properly prosecuted. Instead, let them channel their energy, time and resources into meaningful economic ventures. To those our women, who must travel by hook or crook to carry kolanut and other prohibited items to the Kingdom, better have a rethink. Majority of you are not going for religious rites rather than to sell goro, maggi, cream, etc, and make money.
May God guide and direct our affairs to always be upright in the conduct of our official assignment. May Allah direct our efforts not to cause embarrassment to ourselves, our family and our nation. Ameen.