A Nigerian man resident in Canada, who identified himself only as Chris, has revealed how immigration and airline officials at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, frustrated and tried to truncate his return to the North American country after visiting home in January 2022 with his four-month-old daughter.
According to the Nigerian, who claimed to be a police officer in Canada, he travelled for a wedding ceremony to Nigeria in January by obtaining a travel certificate for his daughter after failing to get a Nigerian passport for the baby in his country of residence.
He disclosed that staff at the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa, capital of Canada, advised him to go for a travel certificate for the baby rather than obtaining a Nigerian visa on her Canadian passport since they were unable to process Nigerian passports at the time.
While entry into Nigeria with the travel certificate for his daughter was smooth, things took an entirely different turn two weeks later when he was leaving the country for Canada.
According to him, immigration and airline officials despite acknowledging the authenticity of the document covering his four-month-old daughter, employed various strategies to frustrate him and deny him the chance of returning to Canada all in a bid to extort some amount of money from him.
Apart from telling him he could not be allowed to leave Nigeria without a passport and visa for his daughter, immigration and airline staff also informed him that he must pay $100 (approximately N57,000 at the black market rate of N573 for a dollar) as penalty before being allowed to go.
The man revealed that he was able to get on his flight that fateful day after standing his ground and defending his right.
While narrating his frustrating experience with SaharaReporters, the Canada-based Nigerian said, “In September 2021, I had a baby and because I was attending a wedding in Nigeria in January this year, I decided to get a Nigerian passport for the girl to enable her to be on the trip with me.
“However, due to non-availability of the passports at the embassy, I was advised by the staff to get a travel certificate instead of getting a Nigerian visa on her Canadian passport. They told me I would not have any problems as long as I had proper documentation to allow me return to Canada. Meanwhile, my daughter is Canadian and has their passport, so she has the right to enter Canada.
“On the day of departure at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, we were first given a problem by the airline staff regarding the ArriveCan App. The app is meant for all persons arriving in Canada to complete due to the current COVID-19 situation. The App collects travellers’ vaccination status, COVID-19 pre-departure test, arrival date and time, purpose of visit to Canada and quarantine plan.
“My daughter was just four months old and not yet vaccinated, so her information shows unvaccinated. Only adults 18 years and above are required to be vaccinated. In order to let people go in such circumstances, you will have to bribe the airline staff on the counter (Egypt Air and Qatar Airways specifically that I know of) before they let you go.
“I got to the immigration desk after the frustrating event from both the customs and airline staff. The immigration officer that checked my documents said that I won’t be able to go because my daughter did not have a Nigerian visa or passport. I explained to him what the high commission had told me but he insisted that I needed to exit with a passport or visa or pay for bringing my daughter in. I told the official that I came into Nigeria with a travel certificate which was collected by the immigration when we arrived in Nigeria.
“I informed him that I had a copy of the travel certificate sent by email from the high commission in Ottawa. He insisted that I was supposed to produce a Nigerian passport or visa or pay some fees in dollars (not sure how much but I heard $100 plus).
“After the back-and-forth argument, he asked about my occupation in Canada and I told him that I was a police officer. At this point, his disposition changed and he became friendly. He thereafter stamped our passport and allowed us to leave.
“I was wondering what could have happened if I was not a police officer in Canada. People are being ripped off every day at Lagos airport; the government must do something about this.”
Corruption at the MMIA, Lagos, is endemic and has been a constant menace travellers deal with year after year.
In November 2021, for example, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria suspended some officials caught extorting a passenger at the Lagos airport.
“This action was taken to serve as a deterrent to other bad eggs in the system that is bent on tarnishing the image of the nation,” a statement by FAAN’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Henrietta Yakubu, had said at the time.
There have been several more cases of alleged extortion by immigration and airline officials across airports in Nigeria with the authorities yet to nib the problem in the bud.