New Threats Amid Evolving Aviation Security Measures

Aviation security risks and threats evolve rapidly and manifest themselves in different forms. Recently, there has been a significant shift in the types of risks impacting civil aviation across the globe, prompting aviation experts to brainstorm on the application of multilayer security measures to nip the threats to aviation in the bud, writes WOLE SHADARE

Security takes cenre-stage

The issue of security has taken center stage in the contemporary international system. Continents, regions, and countries are all battling directly and indirectly to improve their direct domestic and international security status.

Security unavoidably stands as a major policy challenge to decision-makers as well as communities and groups around the globe. This is so because the concept of security remains a complex phenomenon that unarguably requires not just counter-measures to deal with, but concrete preventive and resilient decisions to manage in order to avoid loss of lives and properties.

It, therefore, follows that security requires not only physical protection from existing harm but also the establishment of resilient socio-political and economic structures to deal with its complexity. In this era of globalisation, growing interdependence because of uncertainties in security has given it a new meaning, scope, perspective, and dimension.

Baggage screening exercise

Sept 11 terror attacks

Ask anyone old enough to remember travel before Sept. 11, 2001, and one is likely to get a gauzy recollection of what flying was like. There was security screening, but it wasn’t anywhere near as intrusive.

There were no long checkpoint lines. Passengers and their families could walk right to the gate together, postponing goodbye hugs until the last possible moment. Overall, an airport experience meant far less stress. Security measures are evolving with new threats, and so travelers were asked to take off belts and remove some items from bags for scanning. Things that clearly could be wielded as weapons, like the box-cutters used by the 9/11 hijackers, were banned. After “shoe bomber,”

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Richard Reid,’s attempt to take down a flight from Paris to Miami in late 2001, footwear started coming off at security checkpoints.

US, others intensify security measures

The U.S. decided nearly a year ago to intensify the security measures that are intended to prevent attacks against aircraft after it was revealed that existing measures were insufficient. The U.S. primarily used systems that relied on instruments, rather than intelligence, which had failed numerous times. Since then, the U.S. has been operating greater preventative intelligence in the field of airport defense, which is apparently what aided them in uncovering terror attempts.

Each new requirement seemed to make checkpoint lines longer, forcing passengers to arrive at the airport earlier if they wanted to make their flights. To many travelers, other rules were more mystifying, such as limits on liquids because the wrong ones could possibly be used to concoct a bomb.

Nigeria witnesses threat to aviation security

Until the 1980s, there were no major aviation security challenges in Africa. Then came the 1993 Nigerian Airways Hijack, when a Lagos-Abuja Flight was diverted to Niamey, Niger Republic. After this was the 9/11 attack in America, which changed the face of aviation security globally. Layers of security were introduced in America and beyond.

Nations back to drawing board after Abdul-Mutallab plot

The Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab 2010 failed underwear-bomb attempt on KLM/NorthWest Airline further heightened security and afforded nations to adopt several layers of aviation security to make air travel safer.

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After this incident, NCAA ordered enhanced multi-layered security measures at our airports, including body scanners. Experts in the aviation sector, last week, bemoaned insecurity in the country, advocating multi-layer security mechanisms to safeguard nationwide airports from terrorists.

Rejigging airport security architecture

The stakeholders, at the Breakfast Business Meeting of the Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ASRTI) in Lagos, said the disturbing trend called for a rejig of the airport security architecture in line with the global best practices. Airports in the country, especially the Kaduna Airport, have recorded security breaches and terrorist attacks that had operatives either killed or abducted.


Globally, aerodromes are among the soft targets of terrorists that are aiming to cause havoc and panic. A former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, noted that the threats were still emerging, though not peculiar to Nigeria.

Yet, to the country belongs the onerous task of thinking and planning ahead of threats. “In Nigeria, we had the Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab 2010 failed underwear-bomb attempt on KLM/NorthWest Airline. After this incident, the NCAA ordered enhanced multi-layered security measures at our airports, including body scanners. “The Abdulmutallab incident was the saddest day of my life as the DG NCAA.

The Minister of Aviation who told me to go and watch the news woke me up in the middle of the night. It was all over the news that a Nigerian wanted to kill Americans, but the CCTV footage saved us. When we were asked to provide our evidence, we were able to show it to America and what we had then, some big aviation countries didn’t have them,” he said.

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President of ASRTI, a think-tank group in the aviation sector, Dr. Gabriel Olowo, said in view of the current security deterioration and challenges in Nigeria, it was pertinent for the group to continue to discuss the security situation in the industry.

Another speaker, Ayo Obilana, added that in the U.S., there are only five security checkpoints; three on arrival and two at departure.

Nigeria escapes U.S. Watchlist

Nigeria’s efforts and the provision of aviation security infrastructure helped to extricate the country from America’s Country of Interest Watchlist on account of the Abdulmutallab incident.

There was the call that there is room to have more coordinated efforts at implementing the standard 20 layers of security at the airports.

Among the standard layers are intelligence gathering of data, customs and border protection, joint terrorism task force, no-fly lists and pre-screening of passengers, crew vetting, Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR), canine, behavioural detection, travel documents checking, and checkpoint, and transportation security officers.

Other layers are checking passenger luggage, transport security inspectors, random screening of employees, and transport security specialists in explosives, federal air marshal service, federal flight deck officers, trained flight crew, law enforcement officers, hardened cockpit doors, and the passengers, who also have roles in enhancing security.

Last line

From left: General Manager, Aviation Security, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Dr. Anna Egbadon; Managing Director, FAAN Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu and Ag. General Manager Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Faithful A.Hope- Ivbaze at a press briefing in Lagos recently

And while the post-9/11 global airport security apparatus has grown to what some consider unreasonable proportions, it will never neutralise all threats — or even be able to enforce the rules it has written.

Wole Shadare