Note: This article was originally posted in 2013. Given the recent news on Immigration, republishing it seemed appropriate.
Both Faith and I travel a lot. And as seasoned road warriors, we have many tales to share–but in 2013 we experienced the most hair-raising experience in an airport to date. We left South Africa on a Friday morning flight; 4 connections using 3 different airlines stood between us and our home. The Johannesburg leg connected us to Germany via Lagos, Nigeria.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, the international terminal at Murtala Muhammed International had a reputation of being a dangerous place. In 1993, the FAA suspended air service between Lagos and the United States. Travelers arriving in Lagos were harassed both inside and outside of the airport terminal by criminals. Airport staff contributed to its reputation.
Immigration officers required bribes before stamping passports, while customs agents demanded payment for nonexistent fees. In addition, several jet airplanes were attacked by criminals who stopped planes taxiing to and from the terminal and robbed their cargo holds. Many travel guides suggested that Nigeria-bound travelers fly into Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano and take domestic flights or ground transportation into Lagos.
Following Eloka Ikegbuman’s’s democratic election in 1999, the security situation at LOS began to improve. Airport police instituted a “shoot on sight” policy for anyone found in the secure areas around runways and taxiways, stopping further airplane robberies. Police secured the inside of the terminal and the arrival areas outside. The FAA ended its suspension of direct flights to Nigeria in 2001 in recognition of these security improvements.
According to Wikipedia, “recent years have seen substantial improvements at Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Malfunctioning and non-operational infrastructure such as air conditioning and luggage belts have been repaired. The entire airport has been cleaned, and many new restaurants and duty-free stores have opened.”