Lagos Airport…..a traveler’s worst nightmare!!
The airport of any country is a first introduction to the traveler as to what lies ahead and the first step off the aircraft in Lagos airport was a huge shocker and as I moved slowly ahead towards the terminal hall each step left me in disbelief.
It gave me an impression of walking into a prison built about a century ago with plaster peeling off the walls, false ceiling broken in places, inadequate lighting and poor ventilation….the place was dingy, gloomy and unbearably hot…..in short, it was in shambles. I tried to shake off the jet lag and followed in the direction of where everyone was headed and reached a small hall to join a queue for the submission of the health card for the yellow fever. http://frommyexperiences.com/site/yellow-fever-vaccination-in-bangalore/
A few turns in the claustrophobic corridors and I came into a larger area which served as the arrival hall with a single queue branching off to four immigration counters. Well, hardly seemed to be a queue as agents would ferry their clients ahead ignoring all those who patiently stood for their turns and no one protested, not even the officials. The air conditioning did not seem to work and the stench from the nearby toilets was overpowering and paired with the jet lag my head was spinning. Luckily I did not have to wait long as the agent allotted by my host company took me by my arm and led me direct to the immigration desk ignoring all the people standing in the queue simply as if the queue never existed. I did not protest and rather was thankful to move closer to the exit.
Having collected the baggage I faithfully followed each step of the agent and then we crossed a few tables put together temporarily (that’s what seemed to me) which seemed to serve as a customs check. Here again the agent ignored them and started towards the exit with me hurriedly following him like a small puppy. “Sir, please come here” called a lady officer from the ‘customs desk’ and I looked at the agent not knowing whether to stop and go to the customs or keep following him.
Luckily (I had nothing to hide) a couple of guys walking along with me stopped and went back to the customs and the officer ignored me. Well, at last I was out of the building and I left for my hotel to prepare myself for the business meetings scheduled over the next couple of days.
The return journey was a nightmare that I may not forget in a long time.
I stayed in hotel Ibis located just 5 kms away from the airport and having a flight out at 10pm I considered arriving in at the airport at about 7pm giving me a good 3 hours to go through the formalities. Yet, all things went haywire that day and to cover the distance of 5 kms it took the company vehicle a good 2 hours to reach the airport….2 hours to cover 5 kms…..I could have f***ing walked that distance in half the time.
Well, anyway we reached at 8 pm and I rushed to the counter to see that they had already closed it…..a good 2 hours prior to departure. I argued, pleaded and begged those guys to check me in but they just ignored me. I was petrified and was desperate but no amount of logic or pleading moved them and time clocked to 9 pm and by then I was drained of all energy and I knew they would not let me through. I had by that time refused the services of about 6 ‘agents’ who promised that they could have me board the flight…..whether that was a wise decision or not, I don’t know.
Anyway, it was back to the hotel for me (called back the company car) and I headed straight for the bar as I shot down couple of stiff vodka’s. Following the advice of the hotel manager I decided to keep more safety margin with me and the next day I arrived at the airport at 5 pm for a 10 pm flight. The traffic was more forgiving that day.
I checked in for the flight and then had to queue up for a form submission only to be told after I reached the counter that first I need to get my fever check done at a non-descript ‘temporary’ desk near the check in. So it was a walk back to the fever check booth (temporary desk) and then queue again for the form submission, immigration then a security check wherein the lady officer politely asked for a gift (in cash is what the norm is), and then again a check of immigration stamp (I nicknamed them gift counters).
Having to go through so many check points I am sure that I would have still not been able to board the flight the day before even if they would have let me check in. Well, I had to pass the 4 hours spare with me in a dilapidated restaurant and when finally I walked into the aircraft I inhaled deeply and felt like I had moved through a circle of light and entered into another world.
My endeavor in writing this article is not to create a negative impression on any race, religion or state but to let the readers know what to be prepared for whilst visiting Lagos. No offence meant to the Nigerian people who are in fact quite respectful, well-mannered and polite to talk with. But the Lagos airport is without doubt the worst airport in the world!
It is an experience that was truly unique and definitely not pleasant. Even for a seasoned traveler for me!!