Air passengers lament rising incidence of baggage looting


…as Arik tops list of pilferage cases

  • Airports security porous – experts

Air passengers in Nigeria have asked aviation authorities to urgently look into the increasing rate of stealing in the local and international airports across the country.

The menace, which has been a source of concern, according to victims and industry arikwatchers, indicates that the handling companies or the airlines are not doing their jobs properly.

The cases of stealing from passengers’ luggages increased after the Federal Government started renovating the major airports in the country and it is one of the reasons a survey group, The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, rated major international airports in Nigeria among the worst in Africa and across the globe.

The controversial report indicated that the Port Harcourt International Airport, Nnamdi ariktAzikwe Airport, Abuja; and the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, were symbols of corruption, chaos, confusion and dirt.

A teacher, Mr. Seyi Adeolu, told our correspondent that he was shocked when he arrived Port Harcourt from Lagos recently, and found that his baggage was forcefully opened and some items like notepads, and wrist watches, among others, were missing.

“I did not complain because I was in a hurry and was already late for the meeting I flew in to attend,” he said.

The case of another passenger, Mrs. Glory Nwafor, who flew Arik Air’s Boeing 737-800 plane from Lagos to Johannesburg, South Africa, was different. Unlike Adeolu, who didn’t ask questions over missing items from his baggage, the mother of three wasted no time demanding for answers over her missing valuables after the lock on the luggage was broken.

To her surprise, the enquiry desk officer told her that there was no security check on her bag, as such, checks were not done by the airline in Johannesburg. The officer
reportedly said that any such checks would have been done in Lagos.

“When I arrived Lagos on the return flight, I boarded the shuttle bus with a number of people and most of them shared similar experiences, that their valuables were missing from their luggage and they were never found,” she added.
The experiences of an event management consultant, Anthony Sajere, and his clients were embarrassing, not only to the sector but to the nation also. Sajere, who led some models for a competition in South Africa, was dismayed when he found that gadgets like iPad, laptop computers and valuables like jewelries, shoes and clothes were missing from his bag and from the bags of some of the models.

“Every one of us had one or two things missing from our bags and that was pathetic. My agency had asked us not to fly the airline again,” he said.

The annual summary of flights report released by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority confirmed the plights of the air passengers.

Based on complaints received by the agency in 2015, Arik Air topped the list. The largest indigenous airline recorded the highest cases of piferage out of seven airlines that operate both local and international flights in Nigeria.

The airline recorded six pilferage, discourtesy cases for domestic flights and 44 for international flights. Aero Contractor airline closely followed with six cases for domestic flight and four for international flights. First Nation had four for domestic flights while Medview recorded one for domestic and three for international flights.
Aviation expert and founder of the Aviation Round Table, Captain Dele Ore, said stealing from passengers’ luggage was a security problem, which should be addressed by the ministry and other stakeholders. With decades of experience in the aviation sector, Ore blamed the passengers for being care free about their luggage, saying that he expected them to know that their valuables must be tagged. He explained that the security challenge could not be handled by the airlines alone but should be treated as a collective responsibility of all stakeholders.

He said, “That is why we talk about perimeter fencing to make sure that unauthorised people don’t get to the aircraft and it is the responsibility of passengers too to declare the value of baggage and also weigh it. I hope the regulators are tackling it. If things are missing, it is the security network that allows people to go into the baggage area on the plane before the delivery of the baggage to passengers in the hall.

“It’s a matter of disclosure, but if the whole bag is stolen, they will just look at the weight of the baggage per kilo. However, if you have declared it and it’s missing at the other end, you have the right to claim the full amount of what you declared.”

Though the Managing Director, Finum Aviation Services, Engr. Sheri Kyari, agrees with Ore on the security challenge faced in the Nigerian airports, he said that the state of mind of the baggage handlers also contributed to the menace.

“There is a need to profile baggage handlers very well because if you employ crooks into such activities, they can turn out to be the ones stealing from the luggage. There should be only one route where they can be checked before they go out of the company. Again, there is a need for serious training of baggage handlers, psychologically making sure that they don’t see the need of taking somebody’s property,” he said.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria arrested some suspected luggage thieves shortly after installing additional security gadgets at the Lagos airport recently.

After arresting an employee of Check Port Security, the official airline security company
of Emirate Airlines, Mr. Okereobode Chinwendu, the aviation authority was able to unravel
thieves behind the disappearance of items in passengers’ luggage at the Murtala Muhammed International airport.

“Investigations began last year when FAAN’s Aviation Security Service received a report of pilferage from an Emirate Airlines flight. Officials began inspecting the footage from the aircraft’s bulk hold’s close circuit television showing the reported pilfering in progress,” a source in FAAN told The Point.

He added that Chinwendu was identified in the footage and was apprehended, noting that he later confessed to have given a staff of the National Aviation Handling Company, Mr. Oriola Afeez, some gifts after the latter had promised to watch his back.

“Chiwendu was later charged with conspiracy and stealing, then sentenced to six months
imprisonment while police officers are on the trail of the NAHCO staff involved,” the source

However, efforts to get the response of Arik Air to the allegations levied by the air passengers were frustrated by its spokesperson, Mr. Adebanji Ola as he failed to respond to both e-mails and text messages sent to him by our correspondent.