Getting into Lagos and out of the airport was a relief. My dad was out there with a pick up car and we drove to a hotel in town to sleep over for the night. The hotel brought some food for us in the room after we had arranged the fees and everything else. I had a very light sleep that night in anticipation of seeing the rest of my family in Ibadan (2hrs away from Lagos and the second largest city in Nigeria). It was incredibly hot as well. I was sweating all the time
We set out mid morning the following day for Ibadan and we travelled on the infamous Lagos-Ibadan expressway (local name for the dual-carriage way). I was shocked at the size and number of potholes on this road. It has always been a notorious road for car accidents and armed robbery, but it is the only direct link from Lagos to Ibadan. There were no road markings and cars swerved in out out of their lanes avoiding potholes, some so deep they would damage your car seriously if you ran into them. I held my breath as the driver switched lanes every 2 minutes while doing 100km/hr. There were big trucks and petrol tankers also swerving around, so it was all a potentially dangerous situation. I asked him why the road is so bad, that when I was in Nigeria, I couldn’t remember it like it is now. He said the government had awarded the contract but due to high-level corruption, the project never took off properly and there had been many starts and stops. Currently he said, they are working on it and they are nearly half way and we would soon get to where the work is going on. We did, and to be fair, some some serious work was going on on this road, though slow, but at least, after so many years of nothing, it is nice to see it is being fixed and made safer. I thought to myself I won’t be taking that road again until I am off to the airport for my return, as it looked just too risky. One thing I noticed though was that there weren’t many police checkpoints anymore compared to many years ago when I lived there, we only encountered one checkpoint and they just waved us on.
I stayed in a hotel in Ibadan for the nights and spent most of my day time hours at home with my family. The weather was too hot and I needed a place with constant power supply and air-conditioning to be able to unwind and sleep at night. The hotel provided this.
The hotel staff were generally helpful and nice, but they could spot that I had been out of the country for quite a while, because of the sort of questions I asked, like how do you load phone credit, where can I get internet connection and so on. That said, many of the staff waited for something in return whenever they helped me out with anything. I could see in their body language and sometimes they will ask me directly. I did what I could and sometimes I just said thank you and walked away. But overall I had a pleasant stay.
My time had now come to leave after two weeks of a memorable time with my family. I set out on the Ibadan-Lagos road again and off to the airport. At this point, there was a biting scarcity of fuel and there were many queues on the road causing traffic jams all the way to Lagos. I got to the airport quite early due to the unpredictable nature of events in Nigeria, I couldn’t bear to miss my flight.
When check-in time started, I was ready. The lady at passport control looked at my documents and quickly waved me on to Departures. I went through a few more checks but everything was smooth until I got to security where you were scanned along with your hand luggage. The lady checking my stuff, suddenly looked and whispered to me, ‘anything for us sir?’ I said sorry, what do you mean, she said it again and added ‘nothing is too small’. I was shocked, this was security at the main international airport in Nigeria asking me for money! I pretended I didn’t really understand what she meant and in frustration just waved me on after checking my luggage. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I thought to myself, I know these guys are paid very low, but this is security at stake here. I wondered what someone with sinister intentions might do knowing all the security guys would gladly take money. Scary thought.
As I walked through security, glad I left the uncomfortable situation behind, I suddenly heard a shout from a corner with 3 or 4 men in immigration uniforms waving me over. I thought why are they calling me. I went over to these guys and one of them said to me ‘where are you off to tonight sir’, I said London. He looked at my boarding pass and stared uncomfortably for a while and then said ‘have a safe journey sir’. I thought to myself, did he want money as well? I was a bit concerned at this point thinking why are they all expecting something from me. I am just a regular traveller.
I got to the waiting room where we would sit and wait for boarding the plane. We were subjected to another search here. A man searched my person and a lady searched my bag. As the lady was going through my hand luggage, I heard again in a quiet voice, ‘anything for us tonight sir’, I replied ‘sorry, don’t have any spare cash or anything as I am broke right now’, She giggled and said ‘okay, have a nice journey sir’.
I went to my seat and just slumped in the chair tired of it all. Why on earth are airport officials asking travellers for money, almost openly? The announcement came on that our plane was ready and we boarded ready to leave Nigeria behind with mixed feelings.
Low-level corruption is widespread in Nigeria and people don’t take it seriously, but it is the individuals perpetrating this that will go on to commit higher level crimes when given some power. Imagine the security lady being promoted to become a supervisor, or a manager of a team at the airport, what sort of leadership will she offer? I try not to think about it.
Nigerians shouldn’t deny the reality of corruption in the country. Lets all hope the current regime’s fight against it bears some fruit.