How to prevent luggage stuffing at airports , by experts - THE NATION
Security experts have advised travelers to disclose the content of their checked-in luggage to ground handling personnel, airline staff and other officials that will profile them to prevent the stuffing of their baggage. Stuffing is where passenger baggage are opened and narcotic substance put into them by unscrupulous airline staff during check-in.
Chief Security Officer at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos, Sadiku Mamman said full disclosure of the content would enable personnel handling such baggage carry out appropriate tagging and identification.
He said the matter became worrisome because of insinuations that some foreign carriers stuff the luggage of some Nigerian passengers with drugs as they are being checked in.
He noted that some passengers were unwittingly accepting luggage with contents unknown to them at the airport.
Mamman said it was against the standard operating procedures for a passenger to accept any luggage from another, when it was not packed by him before the flight.
Airlines, ground handling companies and other personnel, he said, asked passengers vital information before their luggage is put inside the aircraft.
He canvassed cooperation among security agencies at the airport to checkmate criminal acts by those whose mission to create problems for others.
Mamman said improved surveillance at airports’ departure halls and other areas would help to arrest any criminal attempts.
He said the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) security personnel would continue to collaborate with profiling companies and others who handle passengers’ luggage to avoid their luggage from being stuffed.
Security expert, Garba Ahmadu, canvassed improvement in security infrastructure to eliminate any form of luggage stuffing and other narcotic related crimes at the airport.
He said there was need for close interface between security and allied agencies to monitor airport workers who might be involved in such activities.
Ahmadu said last year 93 persons were arrested with 5.377.125 kilograms of illicit drug. The NDLEA, he said, secured 25 convictions.
The government, he said must invest in technology to police MMIA, as the busiest airport in West Africa with an average of 35 daily international flights and 10 million passengers yearly.
He said: “This shows the reality and the enormity of the drug trafficking challenge in MMIA.
“ We face many challenges at the airport and among this is lack of modern scanners, ICT equipment, sniffer dogs and advance passenger information system.
“The issue of insider threat is there to grapple with because a staff that is not well paid could compromise or collude with traffickers to commit the crime.
A RwandAir staff member who pleaded not to be named said airlines were taking steps to prevent stuffing, by ensuring that passengers personally and the contents.
Many carriers, he said, had taken steps to monitor the activities of ground handling and other companies involved in the tagging and profiling of luggage.
Last week, on a visit to the MMIA, chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PASEDA), Brig.- Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd) threatened that government would sanction foreign carriers involved in such practice.
His warning came on the heels of a Kano Airport incident which could have led to the conviction of a Nigerian in Saudi Arabia following the discovery of drugs in his luggage, which was wrongly tagged.
Marwa said: “What I said is real that some airline staff and some persons collude to check in and tag passengers name on baggage that they are unaware of and does not belong to them. The passenger was arrested in Saudi Arabia and he denied ownership of the bag.
“Through the Closed Circuit Television Camera at the Kano airport, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) officials discovered that he was innocent as the bag was checked in and tagged in his name by an airline staff.
“Henceforth, such airlines will be penalised once we discover that such a thing happened on their flight.”
According to him, the move was necessitated by the high number of Nigerians languishing in foreign jails as well as the recent execution of a Nigerian woman for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia.