There’s ALWAYS some sort of bribery or money bilking scam going on at Kotoka International Airport. Between the yellow fever vaccination booklet scam, the baggage handlers stealing your luggage, and the customs officers’ expectant query about what you have “brought them from America”, it’s always a miracle when the traveler exits the airport’s sliding doors with their wits intact. Kotoka is a den of iniquity. It is a chaotic, incomprehensible hellscape. If you’ve entered Ghana via that airport in the last 20 years, you will attest that this is no exaggeration. Ice Cube got outta Compton with more ease than you will through Kotoka and its parking lot.
But there’s great news! The linear processes aren’t getting any better and the staff are just as arrogant and deceptive, but the airport is getting a facelift! *confetti*
Jemila Abdulai, my sister in blog, recently returned from Germany and had Ghana’s special blend of corruption thrown right into her face as she was trying to Uber home. And since we are storytellers, she did what was only natural: she told the story of how she was subjected to extortion by the airport’s workers. For that ‘crime’, her award-winning blog was hacked. (It’s back up and running now. I personally think the hack was practice for whoever the IGP is going hire on election day, but that’s because I’m a cynic with trust issues.)
With her permission I am re-blogging her account of the ridiculous and heinous events here…because they can’t hack us ALL. And because we’re all tired of them pulling this ish.
By JEMILA ABDULAI
Kotoka International Airport, Ghana’s only international airport, is getting a facelift and it’s beginning to show. From the new “visa on arrival” desk to the expanded arrivals immigration hall and luggage pickup carousels, the much-needed renovation project, which apparently started in 2014, is helping ease some of the congestion travelers experience through the port of entry. As they say however, beauty is only skin-deep. What about the other, more arduous surgery? The one that expunges memories of power plays and solicitation by airport officials and staff, saves the country millions of dollars, and securely establishes Ghana as the gateway to West Africa it claims to be? When does that work begin?
Stepping off the plane around 8:30pm on June 16, 2016, I was tired, but happy to be home. After days of dreary, cold weather in Germany, I didn’t mind that I had walked right into a travel guide or blog post: the balmy, hot Ghanaian air rushing to envelope itself around me while the unmistakable hint of salt danced about. As myself and the other passengers were transported by bus from the aircraft to the arrivals door, I caught a glimpse of bright lights in the distance: the very lights guiding workers through the night as they worked on constructing the new airport terminal. Terminal 3.
Only moments earlier, a KLM crew member had announced over loudspeaker, “Photos and videos on the airport premises are prohibited”. This is a first, I thought to myself, before shrugging it off. Maybe they want to keep things under wraps until the official unveiling, I reckoned – to offer a pleasant surprise to those who have yet to see the renovations.
Having already filled my arrival form, it took me five minutes to get through passport control and make my way over to the carousel. It would take another 30 minutes before my suitcase came into view. While waiting, I checked the Uber app periodically to see whether there were any cars in the vicinity. I finally found one as I placed my luggage on the airport stroller and headed towards the exit: it was five minutes away. After putting in my request, I continued towards customs control, bracing myself for the usual questions: “What did you bring me?” “Where and why did you travel?” “What’s in your bag?” Nothing. Not a single question. Well, that’s different, I thought to myself. Different, but welcome. After 14 hours of total travel time on subway, train and airplane, I was tired and looking forward to taking a shower and going straight to bed. The clock said 9pm, but my body knew better: it was 11pm. Jet lag had me running two hours ahead of time.