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WARNING: Vital security lessons for Nigerians, international travellers

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By Francis Van-Lare



Poisonous Snakes Called Friends That Should be Avoided at the Airports


I have been traveling internationally going 46 years now and still counting . There were good times and drama times . Most of the time I post or talk about the good times now I want to talk about some drama times . Do me a favour, if you run into an old friend ,(male or female ), that you have not seen in a long time at the airport or inside the plane , please consider yourself as traveling alone or face the reason why you were at the airport . Take his or her number and meet them outside the plane or airport to catch up on any gist later .

Because I have a few to share I will make it a series so as not to make it too, too long . If you travel internationally then please read to the end .

Lesson 1:
Do not share airport trolley or cart with anyone , please have yours and let him or her have theirs .

I was heading to New York from Lagos with a planned stop in London . I ran into an old ‘poisonous snake ‘ of friend that I did not know was poisonous initially . I have not seen him for years . He said he was going on same BRITISH Airways plane to London so we went to change seats so as to sit next to each other that way we could catch up. We discussed at length during the about 6 hours flight . We even agreed to share a room at the hotel together to save money and catch up more.

We were still jolly good friends until we crossed UK immigration. I picked up my two suitcases and put on a trolley . He picked his suitcase and put on mine. I remember telling him that doing so may make the load too heavy for the trolley wheels and he said his suitcase is not heavy .

Usually in the past when I arrive Heathrow Airport, London at about 5am in the morning , I hardly see any customs officer where you exit to the arrival area . This particular morning as we were both walking towards the ‘Nothing to Declare Exit’ two officers approached us and asked where we were coming from and where was our final destination . He told them London was his final destination and I mentioned New York .

Next thing the female officer of the two asked my friend to grab his suitcase and follow them . I thought he will grab his suitcase on top but to my surprise he reached under and grabbed one of mine . (He is lucky it was unlocked ) . I stared at him wondering why and he winked at me and nodded his head more or less to get me to continue going out of the airport .

I started pushing the trolley out slowly waiting to be called back by the officers but they did not .
I got into the taxi and went straight to the hotel we both had agreed to share a room at . It is was also a good thing that where I was to pickup my rented car is at same Sheraton Heathrow we were staying . I remember the Taxi driver telling me I was wasting money taking a taxi to the hotel that I could have taken the Hotel Bus . He was looking for someone going into the city after waiting in line but was disappointed . In my mind I was like only if this guy knew I would have taken an helicopter out of there if it were possible .

On getting to my room , I pried open his locked suitcase and saw nothing but undies and personal clothing . I was surprised , then I thought there must be something illegal in the suitcase for him not to have picked it up . I took his stuff out and felt the suitcase and that is when I noticed I could feel something that I could not see . So I brought the pen knife in my multi tool kit and tore the bottom open . In the bottom were several packs of sealed small bags with white powder inside that I do not need Einstein to tell me the contents .

Eventually he came to the hotel with my suitcase which has been equally knifed everywhere by the British Customs and everything in there upside down . He saw his box on the bed torn open with his goods on display . The first thing he asked was if I told anyone and I said No but he should pack his suitcase and get far from me before I call the police . I did not see him after though he called a few times and I did not pickup his calls .
I later heard years after that he died of overdose

Lesson 2:
Do not accept any luggage from anyone at the airport . If they did not give it to you at home where you can check the content , please decline anyone asking to pay the excess luggage fee so as to add their suitcase to yours.

I once helped someone I knew by agreeing to him paying the excess luggage so his suitcase will travel with me . Upon arriving Atlanta ,GA the border patrol officer put my passport in a blue folder and sent me to secondary inspection . I have never seen blue folder before then . I have seen passports put in red and green folders before not blue . I can’t even remember if my suitcases were already waiting in the blue room or I went to collect them and took them there .
When they opened the extra suitcase I helped bring in I was surprised . It was full of items that could pass for the real things but the officer took some to another room while I sat there 30 minutes or eternity .

He came back later to say I am attempting to import counterfeit that he will detain me . I tried to explain the circumstances under which I got the box and he said to explain that to the judge when I get to court . After a long while no transport came to pick me up and another officer sympathetic came to talk to me again and I repeated same story . I told him the person to pickup the suitcase is waiting outside and they should allow me to turn my phone on . I turned the phone on and saw several text messages from the person which he read himself .

He asked me to call him or her to find out if the person was there and I called and a female answered . She asked where I was and I said at the airport arrival area . She then said she was heading home already and even thought we missed each other as she carried my name on a placard for an hour waiting and no one approached her to be me. I put her on hold and I asked the officer what to do then he said to ask her to come back .

I resumed my conversation with her and told her to come beck to the arrival area . The officers took whatever relevant information they needed from me , they released me and followed me at a distance to await her arrival . When she pulled up in her Mercedes ML I realised I have seen her before in Atlanta area events only that I do not know her name . She said same too that she has seen me a few times too . We exchanged pleasantries and I gave her the suitcase . She loaded it in her trunk and as she made to go to the drivers seat , they grabbed her . Unlucky for her there were two other suitcases in her trunk with counterfeit Items . Whoever brought the other two were lucky they were not stopped .

The suitcases contained imitation designer handbags , watches etc . No way would I or an ordinary person would have known they were counterfeit . It will take whatever technology US Customs used to detect it . I was let go and do not know how the lady ended up . This incident happened in 2012 and for 5 years anytime I
arrive at any US port of Entry even by land I was always sent to the blue lane to be checked for counterfeit . When I asked why , I was told it will be there for 5 years and second offence 10 years secondary inspection and 3rd offense is for ever assuming I did not see jail time for having been caught twice doing same thing .

You can never catch me helping anyone with excess luggage again one experience is enough . The phycological effect of being seen as a potential counterfeit smuggler for 5 years is not what anyone wants to go through…

Have you had a bad airport experience ? Please share the experience

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