Maybe I should call it extortion instead of corruption….Whatever it is, Ghana is seriously sick as a country and finding a just man to cure this national canker will forever be difficult as the society and its institutions are inherently corrupt.
You can imagine the despair on my face when I was greeted at the Kotoka International Airport with an open request to pay out to a Customs Officer in uniform and on duty after a long flight from Amsterdam to Accra-Ghana, …
Though this Customs Officer was making a mere request, his posture, uniform and diction pushed it beyond a request—-making the whole atmosphere uncomfortable and daunting for me.
I was struggling to push my 3 bags on one of those Airport trolleys, sweating out of the warm air which had given me the usual Ghanaian welcome when a Customs Officer called me to his corner…
I thought he was going to inspect my bags so I quickly went into my pocket for the little padlock keys. With an attitude which suggests he is not new to this and has no fear or shame in doing it, he loudly asked; what did you bring for me?
As if he was one of my cousins or there was a way I could have known of his existence, he pushed further by saying ‘anything little will be fine….I can see you are in a hurry so something little and we do not have to go through all the bags’.
At this stage, I felt embarrassed and silly—Do I look like a punk to this man, I asked myself. I guess it was not about how I looked, but the convention in Ghana—-where people in uniforms extort money from those they come in contact with.
In a disappointing voice backed by a head shake, I told him I did not have anything on me for him, and basically ‘all I have in the bags are personal stuff’. But he is free to check them, offering the keys to him….
I am sure he felt disappointed that this punk of a man was a little smarter and there was no way he was going to make any money out of me.
Fortunately for me and unfortunately for another, a certain lady was spotted struggling with her bags too—approaching us. The disappointed Officer quickly marked my bag with a white chalk and rudely said, you can go now…
guess he was on a quick move to try it on the innocent lady.
On my way back to London, I was asked for money again at the same Kotoka International Airport, and this time it was by a gentleman who sat near the counter where you fill out those departure cards.
In fact, I saw an old man hand out a Ghanaian note to this officer. He took the note and confidently pushed it into his pocket…
These people are not only ashamed to ask, they are also fearless and careless. After all, the system is corrupt just like them and there is no one out there to make sure they do not act as such.
I recently travelled to Denmark, Sweden, France, Spain, Holland and Germany without any Airport Official asking me for a penny. Yet, my ‘in and out’ of Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport was greeted by corrupt officers attempting to extort money out of me.
I can’t see how this will ever take place in London’s Heathrow Airport or Gatwick. The people who work in these Airports are not saints, do not get me wrong. The fact is, the system works and there are measures in place forcing them to act saintly.
Are there no cameras at Kotoka International Airport? Why am I even bothering myself with this question since the OGA at the top will probably be part of the ‘request for money from travellers’ scheme…
It’s disgusting and pathetic!