Recently, some men made me pay N32,800 for picking up my friend in front of the Lagos domestic airport.
Admittedly, that area is designated as a drop-off zone. Pick-ups and parking is supposed to be at the huge car park opposite the airport. It costs about N500 to use if you’ll be there for less than an hour.
But as a Lagosian, I reasoned that a quick pick-up won’t harm anybody. So, I did that. Slowed down, opened the door, he got in and we were off. That was how it was supposed to work.
As my friend hopped into the car, some men rushed at us and ordered us to park. Really? They said I had picked up a passenger at the drop-off zone. Something that didn’t take up to two minutes. The man said I had to pay a fine. I tried to talk, to explain that I didn’t really do a pick-up.
But I could have been talking to a brick wall. Before I knew it, somebody clamped my tyres and another person was talking about going to their office.
See, whatever you do in Lagos, never follow any official to their office. Unless you are in the right or you have solid backing from a higher power. Once they say, “You will have to go to our office”, just change tactics and intensify the opposite of whatever kind of pressure you were applying before. I’m not trying to teach you how to break laws. I don’t want you to. But if you have broken it, you should know how to go about it, right?
I knew I was wrong that day. But I couldn’t afford the fine, so my only option was to seek a settlement. I talked till my mouth dried up. And I thought it was working when one of the men said we should move my car and the discussion to one corner. I assumed we were going to the corner to settle.
Wrong! That corner was their office. The same office that I know better as a Lagos girl to avoid in any circumstance. I almost wept. But how could I? I was wrong and had been outsmarted. I deserved to be fined extra for conceding two strong goals.
Well, I’d expected to receive a proper ticket and payment process. You know? Payment of the sum of N32,800 to the Murtala Mohammed Airport Maintenance authorities or something official like that. I didn’t. These men gave me a funny looking receipt that didn’t have an address, crest or payment details on it. Nothing to give it credence. They were working out of a kiosk under the car park and had a guy whose job was to block the road with a champagne gold Toyota car. There was nothing to show that these men worked with the airport authority.
That’s when I knew. I knew that somehow; I had been had. The scam was so fluid that I couldn’t do anything but impotently walk to an ATM machine; withdraw the cash and give them. I was wrapped in anger for the rest of that day. I couldn’t believe it.
It was bad enough that I had to pay for a two-minute sin like that. But what was worse was that my punishment was probably going to buy a round of beer and some bowls of goat meat pepper soup for those men.
I’m still angry.