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Common criminals and terrorists breaching security layers at many of the airports, particularly the Kaduna airport, raises a red flag that should bother everyone, writes WOLE SHADARE
While flying has always been one of the safest ways to travel, thanks to its wide-ranging international regulatory frameworks, aviation incidents have an outsize impact on the public consciousness.
From airport attacks in Brussels and Istanbul to the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine, the recent attacks on Kaduna airport (twice in one year) horrifying images are more powerful than reassuring statistics.
Nigeria has twenty-six airports under the control of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The Nigerian army has already assumed responsibility for security at the airports in northern Nigeria.
Of the airports, apart from Lagos and Abuja, the two with by far the largest international and domestic traffic, the aerodromes in the north are in areas where jihadists or bandits — sometimes both — have been active.
One year after bandits stormed the staff quarters of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at Kaduna airport, bandits, at the weekend, again caused panic at the same airport.
The action prevented smooth operations of flight operations as the military engaged them in a fierce battle.
The bandits were said to have prevented an AZMAN aircraft scheduled for Lagos from take-off owing to sporadic gun battle at the aerodrome as the military repelled the attack from the criminals.
A staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) was shot and killed by the bandits around the runway area of the airport.
Acting Managing Director of NAMA, Mr. Lawrence Pwajok, confirmed the attack to our correspondent.
He said: “Yes, it is true. Bandits attacked our VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) equipment site at Kaduna Civil airport around 12 noon today and shot our security man attached to the equipment and he later died from the gunshot. However, currently, they engaged the bandits in a counter-offensive.”
March last year, suspected armed bandits stormed the staff quarters of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at Kaduna airport, having allegedly kidnapped an unstipulated number of persons.
It was gathered that some FAAN officials living in the quarters, who managed to escape, said some colleagues and their families were taken away by the gunmen.
Aviation is a target for terrorists intent on destroying the freedom that is at the heart of the business, and socioeconomic activities.
Since the dawn of commercial aviation, terrorists have used the air transportation system to both commit their attacks and to attack the system as a target in its own right. Airports in particular have stood out as relatively ‘soft targets for terrorist attacks.
Airport attacks are acts in which individuals or installations on airport grounds are violently and specifically targeted.
Targets can include terminals, check-in counters, boarding gates, passenger areas, vehicles, parking lots, and other equipment or buildings, but excluding aircraft themselves.
Current challenges and future trends in airport security
According to the Statista website, commercial airlines carried an estimated 4.3 billion passengers on scheduled flights in 2018, with over 4.5 billion people anticipated to fly in 2019.
In 2009, nearly 2.5 billion passengers flew commercially, meaning airlines and airports have seen a passenger traffic increase of 80 percent or two billion people, over the last 10 years.
Perpetrators have used the full range of possibilities to attack airports, from mass killings, using grenades and automatic weapons to small homemade bombs exploding in parking lot garbage bins without injuring anyone.
Attacking an airport is generally viewed as a substitute for attacks on airliners. It is a simpler way to make a political point without running risks.
The increase in airline passenger traffic brings many challenges with it, such as just how airports, aviation security companies, and government transportation security agencies will efficiently handle so many travellers.
Evaluating airport security in Nigeria
Not a few have discovered that there is loose security at airports in Nigeria, with the absence of solid perimeter fencing at some airports in the country, which allowed grazing by the runway of some airports.
For example, in 2005 an Air France flight crashed on cows on the runway of Port Harcourt International Airport, killing seven of them and damaging the landing gear of the airplane. Besides, the roads leading to some airports such as those at Owerri and Port Harcourt are not secured, as armed robbers and militants attack travelers.
There are also petty thieves in some airports who capitalise on the loose security to break into visitors’ cars and carry handy belongings.
A recent case of thieves sneaking into a parked Arik aircraft at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, stealing valuable gadgets, speaks to the negligence of law enforcement agencies.
There have been reported incidents of security breaches, of theft at the airside of the airports, especially the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, where a man who might be mentally unstable once clung to the engine of an aircraft that was taxiing to take off.
Nigeria airport security, when compared to developed countries’ airports, could be said to be well below expectation in many of the aerodromes. This would explain why the majority of the passengers are not satisfied with the security situation in the airports.
The security facilities and equipment at the airport also do not meet passengers’ expectations. They are not enough to service the airport security needs efficiently. Many modern security innovations are yet to be seen and employed in the Nigerian airport.
Thus, the overall security service situation of the Nigerian airport is very unsatisfactory and needs to be improved for international competition.
An aviation security expert who spoke to Aviation Metric under strict condition of anonymity said security at the airport must be approached with utmost seriousness and dogged commitment to ensuring the safety of passengers, airport infrastructures, and the economy.
According to the source, “the Nigerian government must give due attention to the training and retraining of the airport personnel. This is because human intelligence has been acknowledged as the most basic resource in combating insecurity.
“Training is also necessary to shape the attitude of the security personnel towards security consciousness and alertness. The security personnel as well need to see their job as a service to humanity and not just a means to an end. This is because they must understand that the wealth of the nation, by their service and the safety of lives of many, to a large extent, is entrusted to their hands.”
Speaking on a recent security breach at the Lagos airport, a former Commandant of the Lagos Airport, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd), said there were more potential security threats and breaches around the airport that were begging for urgent attention.
Ojikutu, who is an aviation security consultant, said there were houses behind the airport perimeter fences that exceeded the standard tolerance security limits to the fences.
“Some of these houses are either using the fences as part of their building or as fences too for their houses. That is why incursion into the airport and taxiing aircraft are rampant.
FAAN should embrace and invest in new security measures and modern devices developed to stop more elaborate and intelligently planned actions by terrorists.Google+