Encroachment Heightens Nigerian Airport Security Challenges

Encroachment into airport premises might be the next big issue. The problem is that Nigeria’s airports are in jeopardy even as the regulator is unable to bite when it comes to preventing structures that are hazardous to air safety, WOLE SHADARE writes


Struggle for land

Part of the crisis threatening peace in Africa is the struggle over land and natural resources. This crisis is rooted in a series of structural, historical, and socioeconomic factors. It is also driven by increasing urbanisation, land-grabbing, demographic pressure, inadequate property rights, and conflicting land tenure systems.

The crisis over the pulling down of the massive perimeter fencing of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, last week, has brought to the fore controversies associated with airport land encroachment.

This article is based on an unresolved land-related crises in many of the country’s airports as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is fast losing its assets to land grabbers and Omo Onile (sons of the original landowners), who assert ownership of land in many parts of the nation. It is believed that all government institutions and facilities are built on land acquired from original owners in public interest.

Emejulu on rampage

Jonathan Emejulu had last week supervised the destruction of the perimeter fence of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. He had destroyed the fence while allegedly ‘executing’ a court judgment that gave him possession of plots of land near the airport undergoing rehabilitation. While ‘taking possession’ of the land on Wednesday, Emejulu insisted that he purchased it in 2008 from Nike community.

But in what appears to be a fight back, the Enugu State Government last week Friday pulled down his twin duplex home. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi vowed to send a strong message to Emejulu for daring the state government by demolishing the airport fence.

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Not a few had condemned the action of the state government for the demolition of Emejulu’s property with many forgetting that the man had become a terror to people living around the airport.

Stories abound about how Emejulu himself demolished people’s houses claiming they encroached on his ‘property’ while demanding N15 million on hapless citizens around the neighborhood. Many have also faulted the government for resorting to self help in resolving the matter by destroying his property.

Utter shock

A source, who spoke to Woleshadarenews, said the government was shocked with the audacity of a citizen to unilaterally carry out such destruction on a national asset and exposure of the country’s national security to attack. What we see here is an attempt at securitization, or a speech act by which something is declared to be the subject of a security regime.

The vocabulary of security, if used in a political context, has the potential for suspending fundamental principles that are otherwise central both to how societies are organized, and to how this organization of society is a matter of politics. For example, an appeal to security potentially sets aside the principle of democratic account. And it potentially outweighs basic rights, such as the right to privacy and the right to freedom of movement.

Safety concerns

Some of the safety concerns before the Federal Government commenced total rehabilitation of the Enugu airport included bad runway, closeness of a market and birds attracting-abattoir, and an aviation focused free trade zone.

The contested land is located at the take-off end of the airport, and would breach safety headroom for planned extension of the runway.

From Lagos to Port-Harcourt to Enugu, Ilorin, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), the situation is the same.

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Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos

In Lagos, the encroachment on the land, which begins from the Shasha area to Mafoluku Area, Ajao estate and Ikeja, is already giving FAAN’s management and the Federal Government a sleepless night.

Consequently, many of the developers whose houses are built very close to the runway and other critical safety areas have been told risk demolition of their houses.

Ajao Estate residents are building towards the runway. FAAN is helpless. A visit to many of the airports across the country shows a number of buildings that have sprung up very close to the airside, while some still had scaffolding.


Few years ago, during the assessment of the encroachment by a special task force set up by the Federal Government, it was discovered that individuals, including aviators converted and built houses on the airport land in Shasha, Akowonjo, Ejigbo, Ile Zik, among others in connivance with insiders in FAAN.

This is a gross violation of provisions of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as contained in documents 8973 on Aviation Security, which state that private and public structures including roads should have a space of at least six meters from the airport perimeter fences.

Another document as provided by ICAO states, “Whenever possible, the ground on both sides of a perimeter fence should be cleared to establish an exclusion zone, a distance of about three meters from the fence is recommended that would remove cover for any intruder and should be kept clear of obstructions such as lamp posts, signposts, equipment, vehicles and trees that may assist intruders to climb the fence.

The fence may have to be set from the actual site boundary to leave an unobstructed area outside the fence.

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While it is very uncertain how private developers got airport land for which they are allocating to people in the first place. This casts a doubt on FAAN’s ability to recover its land and ability to adequately secure the airports.

The Lagos airport is within complicated road networks and uncontrolled urban development. Rather than the airport to develop into its own land, the private developers are encroaching into airport land without restrictions from airport authorities.

Expert’s view

Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu, (Rtd) noted that over the years, the airport in Lagos State in particular had been known to be situated within uncontrolled urban development areas of Ikeja, Oshodi, Mafoluku, Akowonjo Egbeda, Shasha, Ejigbo, Ajao Estate, Beesam, among others and further, sandwiched between complicated road networks connecting these areas is threatened by the activities of the state and local governments.

His words, “The locations of some of these houses have also encroached beyond the limit provided for the security and safety margin for the airport operation by global standards and the National Civil Aviation Regulations”

Last words

The perimeter fences are obligations to standards Annex 14 (Aerodrome Standards) while the provision of security fence is an obligation to standards in Annex 17 (Aviation Security).

If the country cannot or have not enhanced the perimeter of the airports or provide a secondary fence as the security fence, it simply shows that it is not complying with the minimum standards.

Wole Shadare