Your Airports Tell Your Story

By Kelechi Deca

Last week I arrived MMIA Lagos in the company of a foreign colleague who works for a global business news corporation.

We left Lungi International Airport Freetown together to Roberts International Monrovia but when he saw me at a Coffee Bar at Kotoka International Airport Accra, drinking away my disappointments, he suspected we may be on same unusually meandering flight schedule, naturally misery loves company, so we kicked off as if we were long lost friends.

And when we discovered we share the journalistic bond, he ordered beer. We discussed Coffee trade, and how it is the next most traded commodity after crude oil. We dreamt of the day the Drink of the gods will surpass crude oil.

We veered to Cocoa, and the likely impact of the impending formation of an OPEC like Cocoa producer’s cartel to stop the exploitation of Zurich and Ordinarily, Nigeria should be sitting at the table where Cocoa issues are being deliberated, but we are not.

Then the topic dovetailed into the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a topic I’ve made good effort to be conversant with. He needed deeper insight, he ordered more beer, did they not say that best brains are preserved in alcohol?.

He preferred Budweiser, he’s American so I accused him of economic racism for not asking for locally made beer. We laughed at my feigned ignorance of the global beer market, which has become another OPEClike structure with three major brewers trying to rule the world.

We started with the beer market and some of its complicated relationships. For example, in Ghana, same company brew Guiness Stout, Star and Gulder. Whereas in Nigeria, they are stiff competitors.

But nothing can capture the revolution that took place in the beer market across the world spearhead by Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABmiller group aimed at creating global behemoths.

Though the European beer market was dominated by the likes of Guinness and Heineken, SAB sneaked in and bought over brewers on the cheap. It has expanded to Asia and other African countries with a strong showing in Africa’s biggest beer market; Nigeria.

It however laid its strong foundation with the acquisition of Czech brewer Plzensky Prazdroj, makers of Pilsner Urquell, U.S.-based Miller Brewing Co. and Foster’s of Australia in 2011 to form SABmiller group. Today it employs about 69,000 people in more than 80 countries.

But the real “monster” is AB InBev which emerged from a 2008 takeover of U.S. icon Anheuser Busch Cos by the Brazilian-Belgian brewer InBev to form the behemoth known as Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Anheuser-Busch InBev already claims six of the world’s most valuable beer brands, which besides Budweiser include Corona, Stella Artois and Beck’s.

The company has operations in 25 countries and makes more than 200 beers with a market worth of $275 billion, and annual sales of $73 billion, three times that of its closest rival Heineken Group, and triple Nigeria’s 2019 national budget. A litre of beer is more valued than a litre of petrol. Soon, a litre of water would be more expensive than a litre of petrol. Think.

I’ve digressed beyond forgiveness.

As we were to board to Lagos. He was adjusting his phone, watch and a silver ball pen with shinny tip. I confronted him for videotaping our conversation without informing me. He confessed to the contrary, and opened the videos to show last recording being his passing through security checks at the Kotoka International Airport. He said he already has recordings of over 20 airports with 15 to go.

We landed at Lagos, he started his project, my mind sank as soon as our Immigration and airport officials started their thing oblivious that they’re on camera with top range HD in both sound and visuals.

There are easier ways our government can curb petty corruption at the airports. Start with the lower hanging fruits. For example, at Chhatrapati Shiva International Airport Mumbai and Indira Ghandi New Delhi, the Immigration booths have microphones that record all conversation between officials and passengers.

At Soekarno-Hatta International Airport Jakarta, passengers can watch on a HD screen as their luggage leaves aircraft through the tunnels down to the carrousel for collection. This ensures no one tampers with it. Tampering is rearing its ugly head again at MMIA Lagos.

Till date, most first time travelers are subjected to all sorts of extortion, and maltreatment by airline officials, immigration officers, NDLEA officials and Customs Officers demanding to know how much they have on them. I read of a young lady traveling to Poland where she got admission, and they stripped her of over $1000.

In June while traveling to Moscow, our Photojournalist Adeleke Aladejare (Efon-Alaye man) and our Executive Editor Joni Akpederi accosted airline officials of Turkish Airline who took money from a young lady traveling to Dubai. My colleagues forced them to return the money to the young lady.

Our airports are the only ones where the number of non passengers are over 10 times the number of passengers. Lagos is still one of the most notorious airports in the world. Abuja is far saner. But the rate of touting in Lagos is unbelievable. Last week I met over three women carrying sick looking kids as bait to beg for alms — at an international airport?

My foreign colleague sent me a WhatsApp message last night of his encounter with our officials.

Something must give. And it doesn’t take an arm or leg to fix. While shinny modern airport terminals are important, it doesn’t tell the whole story. How visitors/passengers are treated has the upper hand in rating an airport.

Where is PEBEC when you need them? It makes no sense to have kiosks at the airport with staff who earn salaries, yet this mess…..

Let me continue with my second cup of Coffee. I’ll gist you on my experience yesterday at Seme Border. A lot has improved. It took me just four minutes to be stamped out and stamped in by both Nigerian and Beninese Immigration officials. I like that.

  • Deca is the Chief Resource Officer at Newstrackers International

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