EXCLUSIVE: How Nigeria Customs Service Officials Bypass Security Checks At Lagos Airport To Illegally Move Cash For Passengers

More details have emerged on how top officials of the Nigerian Custom Service have been moving cash through the tarmac and bypassing the departure point.

Recall that the NCS had last week intercepted and seized $8.06m at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.

The hard currency was stashed in six bags and packed inside a coaster bus belonging to the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company.

One suspect, who is the driver of the bus, Chimezie Okonkwo, was arrested in the process and taken into custody with the intercepted cash.

Further findings by SaharaReporters reveals that customs officials in connivance with some other security agents were involved in the racketeering.

A reliable source familiar with the lucrative activity, said that the business of helping many Nigerians move raw cash out of the country had been a normal routine at the airport.

He disclosed that officials had on several occasions facilitated and moved more than $2m to $3m three times in week through the departure point.

He however, added that the security operatives privy and involved in the racket always negotiated with owner of cash to be moved. 

The source disclosed that they always collected N1m on every $1m successfully moved.

The source narrated that the operation was stopped two years ago as a result of the proliferation of security operatives deployed at the departure point.

The situation made the number of people to share in the bribe to swell up eventually made it difficult for customs officials involved in the illegal activity to operate.

Findings revealed that as a result of this situation, customs officials resorted to moving cash through tamac using crew vehicles or any vehicle related to aircraft activities.

The source said, “At the foot of the aircraft they will pass through the staircase to AVIO bridge (ladder bridge).

“Upon getting to AVIO bridge, the passenger who is the owner of the money will pick the bag up and walk into the aircraft since the passenger had been cleared.”

It was also gathered that the racketeers always carried out this operation using Ethiopian Airlines.

According to findings by SaharaReporters, a disagreement among officials was what led to the discovery of the $8.06m found at Lagos airport recently.

Comptroller of NCS at the Hajj Cargo terminal and Deputy Comptroller at the MMA International had a clash as to who should call the shot.

It was gathered that the Comptroller at the MMA was completely sidelined and shut out of the entire operation and decided to sabotage the racket.

He sent his men after the cartel to intercept the consignment having got the wind of the operation.

Also, our correspondent gathered that the money in question belonged to a group of traders engaged in importation of goods into Nigeria from China and that it was not their first time of using same means to moving huge cash.

It was also revealed that the $8.06m was confiscated two weeks before the disclosure by NCS boss, Hameed Ali, and the actual amount seized was over $9m but officials declared $8.06m only.

Investigation also revealed that customs officials decided to conceal the identity of the airline designated to carry the seized cash to further protect their illicit scheme. 

SaharaReporters also gathered that one Mr Ojukwu, who was a staff of Ethiopian Airlines and was a few years ago arrested and jailed in connection with this type of deal after owner of a large sum being moved raised the alarm after noticing a shortfall the amount, was now back at the same airline perpetrating the same act.