For the first time, I travelled to a West African country that is not Ghana (Ghana has become a regular that it doesn't even qualify as travel anymore). I was spending just two days so my luggage was as light as can be. The only reason I checked it in was because of one creams I carried that was more than 100ml
Immediately I found my queue, one of the logistics staff approached me. Seeing how light my luggage was, he asked why I wasn't carrying it as hand luggage and I told him why. Immediately he weighed my luggage, a lady approached me from nowhere and said she overheard me saying I was going to Banjul and noticed I didn't have any luggage. She explained how she had excess luggage and I should assist her in carrying one of them
At that point, pictures of me locked up in jail because I had luggage containing hard drugs flashed in my head. I became very cautious but I didn't want to turn her down. So I asked her what was in her bags. She said clothes and food items. I told her the only way I would help her was that I would make sure she ransacked the bag in my presence cos I don't want anyone to put me in trouble.
She agreed but started explaining how she's a student and had no ulterior motives. I said “it doesn't matter. Lemme check your bag.” She opened a bag that had dry fish, our and very local food items with strong odour. At that point, all I could think of was drug dealers masking cocaine with strong odours, and a picture of my mum visiting me in jail, asking how I could have been that stupid flashed through my mind.
To top it up, she said I shouldn't worry, she's a member of mountain and fire ministries. In my mind, I was like who cares, I'm talking about my destiny here, you are playing the religious card with me. But all I told her was that "it doesn't matter what church. This is my life we are talking about. Open your bags." Yes, I really said that to her, after which she said she understands because there all kinds of people in church now.
The food items in her bag were cause for worry so I told her that if I carry that bag, she would follow me and pay the customs officials whatever they are asking for because of what was in her bag. I didn't care how she would do it or the fact that they'd know the true status of the bag. I just wasn't going to pay bribe for someone else's dry fish and ogbono.
One of the logistics officers told her not to give me the bag with food but the one with clothes cos the customs officials would know she's the owner and turn it back. It was then she decided to give me another bag containing clothes. I told her to open it and ransack it in my presence. All her brazier was on top and I felt pity for her but brazier pity won't save me from jail so it didn't matter. I finally took the bag. And then she still had another bag which she was looking for someone to carry for her
After talking to the first logistics officer, I realized that they had marked me right from when they saw me. So once they see you with little or no bag, they mark you and start asking questions just so you can help a passenger carry excess baggage
At this point I wondered why you would come to the airport with 90kg on a 30kg allowance without wanting to pay for excess baggage considering the fact that excess baggage across West Africa is very cheap.
Thankfully, I’m home now, and the good news is that I'm not in jail… but not before I face a problem of my own.