My airport ordeal, by Ezekwesili

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In Nigeria
Jul 24th, 2014
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A former Education Minister and #BringBackOurGirls campaigner, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has narrated her ordeal, on Monday, in the hands of security operatives at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

Mrs Ezekwesili was delayed for over 40 minutes by men of the Department of State Security (DSS), who said they were following “orders from above”.

The former minister spoke on Tuesday with members of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), to whom she is a trustee.

She gave details of what transpired between her and the security operatives as she waited to board an aircraft to London for a television programme on the BBC.

A statement by CANAN’s Executive Director, Pastor Laolu Akande, after Ezekwesili’s visit to the group in London, revealed details of her ordeal.

Ezekwesili said: “I arrived at the airport yesterday (Monday) to travel to London by British Airline. First, after the luggage screening section, I moved to the Customs area, sitting next to it. They were doing a thorough bag search. Rather than handle my luggage, as is the (normal) practice, there were three State Security Service (SSS) men, who rudely took over before they (Customs officials) could do so. They (SSS) ordered me to open my bag.

“I was travelling light, with just my hand luggage, leather roll-on and my computer bag. I placed the bag for them (to see). But one was already furiously rummaging through it, when the Customs advised that a woman be allowed to do it. She was allowed, and she did it.

“She finished, zipped up the luggage. Then they said I could proceed. But I asked that the computer bag be also searched, and they did.

“I went to do my checking and got my boarding pass. This was swiftly done. I arrived at the Departure of the Immigration Desk at 7.15am and presented my passport and forms. The Immigration worker did the processing and handed it to the SSS official. “Usually, the process lasts no more than five to 10 minutes on a passport. As a frequent traveller through our Lagos and Abuja airports, I speak from experience and evidence. Even on the same day, the process for other travellers that I witnessed did not last more than five minutes. But on Monday, it became five, 10, 15 and 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 minutes for the Departure Desk processing my papers, without any explanation except: ‘We are acting on instruction.’”

Ezekwesili said after 10 minutes of waiting, she asked the officer why her passport had not been handed over to her.

Quoting the officer, she said: ‘I am not doing this personally, madam. I am simply acting on instruction. You, of all persons, should understand that.’


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