Airport officials and others fond of harassing travelers with begging and other forms of extortion at the Nigeria’s International Airports are in for a hard time, amid fresh plans by the Federal Government to arrest and prosecute them for the acts.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Ministry of Aviation on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding ( MOU ) to this effect in Lagos.
The MOU is to ensure that the two agencies develop synergy towards fighting acts of corruption at the Nation’s airports, and most especially to discourage the arts of begging and extortion of travelers by airports officials on duty.
With the new initiative being put in place, any airport official caught to be soliciting gratification or tip from travelers will risk a seven year jail term, while the giver too will bag same term if arrested and convicted.
Stating reasons the government took to the stance on curbing corruption, the ICPC Chairman, Barrister Ekpo Nta said, “It is important to note that the Aviation Sector’s stature as a gate way for investments and tourism in the country is sharply diminished by the corrupt and unethical practices of officials who serve at the nations airports.
“Reports have been made to ICPC of airport users being constantly confronted by demands for bribes and gratification at various points of interface with agencies, as well as deliberate operational bottlenecks created to induce pecuniary responses.
“It is also evident to anyone who uses the airports how courtesies and normal social greetings have been degraded to blatant and crass tactics of soliciting tips. These repugnant practices, many of which are punishable by law, tarnish the image of the country and in consequence cause many foreigners to divert business and pleasure pursuit to other countries!.
Ekpo Nta said the strategies to be employed by the Aviation Ministry and ICPC in this process, include mandatory training on ethics and integrity at the anti – graft agency’s academy for personnel of all stakeholders deployed to work at the airports.
He said the agreement would also involve a comprehensive systems study of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, its parastatals as well as continuous sensitisation of the traveling public and foreigners who use the airports not to compromise by offering tips or bribes and report unwholesome practices to the ICPC.
In his remarks, the Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka who described corruption as a roadblock to national economic development vowed that the Aviation Ministry would spearhead the battle to rid the Nigeria’s entry and exit ports of corruption by way of correcting the wrong perception which outsiders have been having about Nigeria.
Against this background, the Minister ordered the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Air Force to flush out touts around the arrival hall of the Lagos International Airport within two weeks.
He also said the installation of CCTVs in strategic places around the airport would be deployed to monitor workers at the airport to detect those fond of soliciting bribes or tips while on duty.
He said the Ministry would hold talks with the Lagos State government to set up mobile courts at the Lagos Airport for the speedy trail and prosecution of persons arrested for touting and other unauthorised practices.
The new initiatives received a boost when heads of aviation agencies including the Director General of NCAA, Captain Mukhtar Usman, the chief executive of FAAN , Engineer Saleh Dumoma, and the Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Engineer Abdulsalam Ibrahim pledged to support the anti – corruption initiative .