How Government Can Protect Airports from Terrorists, Invaders
So far, the airports have been protected from terror attacks but the number of stowaways and the incident of the young Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who in December 2009 boarded a flight from Lagos airport with powdery bomb in his underpants, showed that the security at the airports is still porous.
Although there has been efforts to improve security at the airports after the incident and also the fortification of the airport terminals in the face of terror attacks that ravage the nation, but the successful stowaway incident of Daniel Ohikhena from Benin to Lagos in the wheel well of Arik Air flight showed that government should put more efforts to further secure the airports.
Aviation security expert, Adebayo Babatunde, the Chief Executive Officer of Avscon Securities Limited in an interview with THISDAY noted the essence of aviation security was for the protection of air travel from unlawful interferences and that there are basic structures set up to ensure that this happens.
“Demarcation of specific areas of the airports is part of the process of aircraft security, which includes the process of screening passengers, their luggage, supplies and others. These also include the scanning of vehicles that access the airside of the airports, including fuel tankers.”
Babatunde said there should be the process of transiting from the landside to the airside of the airport, which is the sterile area and which should be inaccessible to unauthorised personnel, so anybody that should be allowed to the airside must be regularly screened and monitored and these include airport staff, airline workers, cabin crew, security and cabin suppliers.
He said the patrol team must be in communication with the officials in the close circuit television (CCTV) control room, noting that airport staff must be scrutinised and monitor on regular basis to avoid insider threat, which is very dangerous because if there are officials that have sympathy for terror organisations, or other dangerous bodies, the airport is threatened.
Babatunde is of the view that because maintaining airport security is capital intensive, government should begin the process of handing over the building and management of airports to the private sector while it concentrates on providing security at these airports.
The Managing Director of Centurion Securities Limited, Group Captain John Ojikutu, spoke in the same vein and insisted that government must remove its hold on passenger terminal building and concentrate funds on critical aeronautical safety/ security facilities.
“FAAN was set up primarily as a commercial entity, not a security agency. Its role as airport security coordinator over government security agencies in the airport is superfluous. Government should therefore establish autonomous AVSEC (Aviation Security) agency like TSA (Transport Security Administration) of the US, consisting elements of SSS, police, Customs and Immigration,” Ojikutu, who is a former commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, said.
In Nigeria it is yet to be established whether it was a success because the effort was dogged by controversies. Besides, the concession that was done exposed the fact that without proper monitoring, the investor could be exploitative and could use high charges to make air travel more expensive, thus grossly limiting the number of people that travel by air.
Most of Nigeria’s airports lack adequate security equipment, from perimeter fencing to operational vehicles and inadequate personnel, but new measures being taken by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are already addressing these problems.
Ojikutu observed that except the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, other airports do not have adequate runway/ taxiway apron/approach lightings; that most do not have adequate/efficient water hydrants to provide water for fire fighting and no sufficient fire fighting machines. He also said no airport has security fencing or have enhanced perimeter fencing.
Many of the airports have their perimeter fencing projects terminated and some of the airports, like the one in Benin do not have perimeter fencing at all. The ones in Northern part of the country need urgent security fencing in addition to the perimeter fencing because of the menace of terror organisations.
So Ohikhena has reawakened interest in the security of air travellers in Nigeria; the deployment of equipment and personnel and also the weaknesses of the country’s aviation security programme.
The source also argued that the controllers see the airside of the airport more comprehensively than any other person at the airport because of the tower so they are in a better position to know what is happening at the runway.
Meeting ICAO Standards
“Aviation security programme is ICAO required for all aviation operators which we domesticated in our NCASP (Nigeria Civil Aviation Security Programme) to safeguard civil aviation against act of unlawful interference. NCAA (the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority) must in addition to the audit, find out status of the background checks of staff working in the airports restricted areas. Lastly all Nigerian airports do not have secure perimeter fences and all do not have security fences. Security fences have been neglected since ICAO visit/report of 2004.”
California Aviation Alliance: Airport News List E-mail
Sent by AviaEd@AIM.com – Lorena de Rodriguez on behalf of CAA subscribers. Add your comments to these stories realtime online at http://aviaed.wordpress.com/.