By By Chinedu EzeFollowing rising cases of theft, including a recent robbery of a private jet waiting to take off after bandits accessed the airside of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, the federal government has reinforced the security apparatus at the nation’s airports, THISDAY has learnt.
The new strategy, it was learnt, includes the expansion of areas covered by the Close-Circuit Television (CCTV), reinforcement of security team that patrols all areas of the airports, profiling of Aviation Security (AVSEC) personnel, close monitoring of airport users and workers and ban to persons who have been sacked from the airport from gaining access to any of the airports unless they are travelling.
The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman, who disclosed this in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, said some other strategies deployed by the federal government to fortify security at the airports would not be disclosed as part of security measures.
According to him, Nigeria had kept good record in terms of airport security until the recent breach, where bandits accessed and stole a bag from ANAP Jets aircraft owned by Mr. Atedo Peterside.
The NCAA Director General said for about two years such incidents were not recorded at any of the airports in the country until the recent incident.
He noted that security breaches were bound to occur as it happens at different airports of the world, adding, however, that it would be a thing of worry if the occurrence becomes frequent.
He said: “When it comes to security, challenges are normally faced and they are addressed as at when we see them either physically or when we envisage that there is likelihood to be breaches. A lot of things have been going on in terms of prevention.
“Once in a while we have breaches and any time we have a breach, we go back to investigate to know how and why. And the essence is to prevent it from happening again. I cannot disclose the things that we have done or that we are doing, otherwise we give some people the opportunity to attack.
“But whatever is possible, we are doing it to make sure that our airports continue to be secured. Because we are taking the fight to the other side not only the airside but also even on the landside because that is the new trend now.
“If you can avoid any threat coming on the landside there is a better chance of you stopping anything going on the airside.”
Usman explained that concerted efforts were being made to ensure that those who are not supposed to be at the airport do not have access to the facility, stressing that there is an increase in the monitoring of movement by security operatives at the airports.
The director general also said investigations have confirmed that those who would plan to rob at the airport must have airport experience as former workers of handling companies, airports management companies, resource and other companies that operate at the airports.
He added: “We are scrutinising everything and we can confirm that those who have the courage to go to the airport to rob are those who are familiar with the airport and airport processes.
“Nobody that does not have that experience will have the courage to go there, unless the person is guided by those familiar with the environment. We have urged concerned authorities to regularly profile AVSEC personnel.
“I also suspect sabotage because anytime Nigeria has good records in aviation; this kind of incident will come up. That is why it is not wise to make your strategies public.
“For two years we have not had any of such incident and when our security records are attracting a lot of commendation bandits came with the unscrupulous act.”
Reacting to the security breaches at the airports, the former Managing Director of Capital Airline and currently the lead consultant of ETIMFRI Group, Mr. Amos Akpan, likened the incident to breach of national security.
He said even the President of Nigeria is not save if bandits and possibly terrorists could have access to the airport runway.
He said: “We will keep having reoccurrence of such security breaches because our aviation security programme appears to be reactive, not proactive. The criminals breach the security and we respond with fire brigade, reactive approach. The fences at the airport have holes.
“There is no real on-time coverage of the entire airport by Close-Circuit Television (CCTV). We need to have the entire airport covered by CCTV. This way every activity in and around the airport will be on record and can be reviewed in case of breach.
“It is dangerous to let criminals feel they can enter and operate within the airport. In the immediate, it has to be mandatory for Aviation Security (AVSEC) with armed security to escort every aircraft.”
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said it has taken corrective measure to end security infractions as noted by Akpan.