Africa: Uganda Civil Aviation Authority reacts to extortion claims at Entebbe airport, Issues stern warnings

Entebbe International airport

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority has issued stern warnings to staff of agencies working at the Entebbe International Airport saying it will not condone acts of illegality and fleecing of air travelers at the airport.

The warning follows series of complaints of extortion by passengers from agencies’ staff working at the airport.

According to onitor.co.ug, aviation authority said, previously reported cases with specific details have been thoroughly investigated and where staff of various agencies operating at the airport were found culpable, serious disciplinary action was taken, including termination of contracts and withdrawal of airport access passes from them, among others.

“Entebbe airport is full of ignorant, arrogant, incompetent, corrupt beings …These guys’ main job is to make travelers miss their flights. Recently I missed my flight because I refused to give them 1,000 dollars they asked for so they could allow me on the flight whose ticket I already had. Oyo alina Sente, waba tatuwadde tajja kujilinnya” [‘He has money. He won’t board the plane without giving us some money”] one of them told the colleague; with an angry face like a muwuulu who sent transport money to a sure only for her not show up,” reads a Wednesday tweet authored by Ugandan musician Donald Rugambwa Rutaisire, known by his stage name as Don MC Kapata.

Mr Rugambwa is just one of the many travelers whose concerns the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) says it is addressing.

READ: Aviation: East African Carrier, Uganda Airlines to Commence Flights to Nigeria in December

In a statement released Thursday following several complaints of extortion and missed flights at Uganda’s only international Airport located in Wakiso District, the aviation authority said it does not in any way condone such acts (extortion) and that where such incidents have happened, it is “highly regrettable and unacceptable.” “It is important for the public to know that while UCAA facilitates operations at Entebbe International Airport, this is done in liaison with several independent providers of key services, including, but not limited to Immigration, handling agents (NAS and DAS), airlines, Ministry of Health through port health, Security agencies, URA customs, and Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (Labour externalization agents), among others,” reads part of the Thursday statement issued by UCAA management.

According to the aviation authority, previously reported cases with specific details have been thoroughly investigated and where staff of various agencies operating at the airport were found culpable, serious disciplinary action was taken, including termination of contracts and withdrawal of airport access passes from them, among others.

“Unfortunately, none of the regurgitated trending videos [on TikTok], specifically states a particular check point, time, day and flight details of when the alleged extortion may have taken place. This would help the investigations. We are contacting the parties in the TikTok videos to share with us information that can guide us to take quick action. In the past, we have investigated similar generalised claims made on TikTok, but unfortunately no specific information was established to corroborate the claims,” the statement added.

However, the complaints were not only made on TikTok.

Controversial Ugandan blogger Ibrahim Tusubira, popularly known as Isma Olaxess through his Facebook account also accused some of the airport staff of extortion.

“You made my friend miss a plane because he did not give you (airport staff) Shs200, 000 bribe. Don’t you get paid for doing your job?” he wondered.

In her attempts to reinforce the claims socialite Sheila Gashumba said “I’ve tweeted about the customer service at Entebbe airport over three times. I’m glad more people are being vocal about this!! If people don’t want to work, employ others!! I once witnessed over 100 people crying because they had missed their flight, it was heartbreaking to watch,” she tweeted on Thursday.

But the aviation authority contends that the airport has cameras placed in strategic places for security reasons and to enable them address such issues whenever they occur.

“The Authority urges the travelling public not to be compelled or lured into paying money to any staff they interface with (from whichever agency) in the course of travel through Entebbe International Airport. Please immediately report any case(s) of extortion in exchange for favors, including cases where the passenger has already left the airport,” the UCAA statement added.

Uganda is the 144 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.

In October last year, Uganda’s Inspectorate of Government revealed that the east African nation loses at least Shs9.144 trillion to corruption conduits present in both the private and public institutions every year.

 

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