On August 21, 2015, an Arik Air cabin crew was caught in London with drugs weighing 20kg worth millions of pounds. Other airlines which drugs were found on their planes in the past include Air Indian, Varig and the defunct Nigeria Airways.
Ordinarily, if an individual is caught with drugs on the street or about to board a flight it may not generate much commentary. But in an Airliner, it attracts attention because it touches on the image of a country of its origin, whether flag carrier or a national carrier. Airline and its crew are ambassadors of their country. Their duty is not just to make money for their company alone but also act as a mirror through which foreigners glimpse through the home states of the airlines, her people and their cultures.
The Arik Air crew nabbed with drugs in the United Kingdom is an unfortunate incident. It is an embarrassment not only to the airline but also to Nigeria as a nation. Anywhere a Nigerian does well outside the country, we rejoice, we celebrate him or her. The cabin crew in question has smeared the image of the airline. Airliners caught with drugs have their crew and the aircraft subjected to more thorough and humiliating checks. The passengers are not spared either. Air travellers boycott the airlines for some time to avoid being stigmatised.
Nobody wants to fly on such airlines to avoid delays at the airports of their destination because the airlines can no longer be trusted. Former Director of Flight Operations in the defunct Nigeria Airways, Captain Dele Ore, describes cabin crew involved in drugs trafficking as destroyers of their family’s image.” They destroy their names and that of their family. Instead of the respect given to them in foreign airports they lose that courtesy of not being subjected to intensive search back home. Now, they will be stripped to the pants, their bags will be opened, every item will be thoroughly searched before they are allowed to leave the airport for their hotels. It is a bad image for the airline.”
The incident is an indictment of security operatives and all the apparatuses put in place at the airport. It has exposed the weakening of the system. Security is an eternal vigilance since criminals do not give advance notice about their intention. One must not fail to acknowledge efforts of the government at checking nefarious activities of drug peddlers using modern gadgets. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had made many seizures at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos and had secured conviction of a number of culprits. The Arik Air case throws more challenges to the Agency to re-examine its approach at combating drug menace at the nation’s gateways. One is in a quandary how the Arik Air staff was able to beat the eagle eyes of the NDLEA at MMIA in Lagos. Was there internal connivance with unscrupulous, disgruntled elements inside the airport?
Mr. Andrew Nnalegwu, a senior cabin executive with the liquidated Nigeria Airways, looking back in his days in the national carriers notes that no responsible airline staff would want to indulge in such a despicable behaviour. It stands you and your airline in a bad position in the estimation of right thinking people.
According to him, the work is glamorous. You meet with different people. In his words, a cabin crew must have resistance so that he or she does not fall prey to whoever that wants to use them for nefarious activities.” If barons know you are a cabin crew, they will come and look for you even if you leave in the remotest part of the city.” We suggest that any airline that is engaged in international operations should take time to study the life style of its crew members. Some of them flaunt wealth that is not commensurate with their wages. It is difficult to convince anyone how a staff on a monthly salary of N60, 000 to have automobile company where he sells new cars, each worth N3million and above. Delay in the payment of salary is not an alibi for anybody to take to drug trafficking or criminal behaviour. Frenetic emphasis for riches impels some people with weak internal control mechanism to take to anti-social tactics that are against societal norms. There are several genuine decent, respectable businesses around that one can do which add value to the state.