Impersonation arrests puts Nigerians under airport scanner

Nigerian nationals are under the scanner at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport after eight people from the country were caught in separate cases this year for impersonation, police and immigration officials said.

Security staff at the airport here are carefully scrutinising the appearance and documents of passengers from the African country to ensure they are not conned again, a Delhi Police official said.

The eight Nigerian nationals were booked under section 419 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for impersonation after they were caught in separate cases this year.

An official explained that most Nigerians come to India for study and business purposes. Cases have come to light of some whose visas have expired using a friend's travel documents to go out of India, making sure their facial features somewhat resemble the person in the photograph, a police official told IANS under condition of anonymity.

"Earlier, the security staff would not really look carefully to see if the passport photograph matched exactly with the person who is travelling (out of the country). They would give a cursory glance to see if it matched," the official told IANS.

As more such cases were reported, police issued a general alert to airport officials, including the immigration department.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGIA) Jagjit Singh Deswal, the staff of the Central Industrial Security Staff (CISF) who look after airport security, have also been told to keep a special check to prevent impersonations.

Delhi Police assist the CISF in providing security outside the airport and also file any police complaints in the airport.

"Our officials give cursory glance to a person's passport. The original checking of passports is done by the immigration department of the airport," a CISF official told IANS.
An estimated 5,000 Nigerian nationals live in Delhi. Most of them travel frequently to their country on business purposes, said another police official.

The community has come under the spotlight for allegedly being involved in criminal cases.

Of the 24 foreigners booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 2012 in the Indian capital, 19 were Nigerians, an official said.

"Nowadays, some Nigerians are also found to be involved in sending fraud jackpot messages on people's internet mail IDs to dupe them," the official said.

Some are known to destroy all their identification papers, including passports, leaving police with no clue as to which African country they hail from, making investigation into a crime tougher, an official said.

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