The Chairman of Scope Centre Limited (an aviation security company), Mr. Adebayo Babatunde, has alerted concerned authorities on the need to beef up security at nation’s airports in the face of growing terrorism in the country. He spoke with Chinedu Eze
Possible Threats to Airports Security
Most parts of the airports, including the most secured areas are porous because people can gain access to these places and that is dangerous for the country. There have been reports of a stowaway and somebody presumed mad on the runway. How did one get into the wheel well of an aircraft if the airside of the airport is not porous? And how can a man, assumed to be mad, gain access to the runway if there is no laxity in the security apparatus of the airport?
Standard Security System at the Airport
Airport security is a coordinated action to protect and secure both humans and material assets within the entire perimeter of the airport. These assets include aircraft. The perimeter of the airport includes the land side and the airside.
Security begins its work from the moment you approach the airport, the process you undergo to access the airport to the time you enter the terminal as passenger or meeters and greeters and to the boarding process of the passengers which takes him to the airside; including the entire process of aircraft departure.
All of these are coordinated by refined, standardised process which is governed by international regulations and best practices under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annexe 17.
Security from Point of Access at Airport
This indicates the process by which we control entry of vehicles, passengers, airport workers and others into the airport. The existing structure of the airports in the country did not take into consideration the present level of threat. It was zero terror situations when they were constructed, so this calls for a review in the architectural design of these airports.
As we revamp the airport infrastructure, we should take that into consideration and amend the structure to reflect the current terror situation.
How to Determine Current Level of Threat
The most critical element of security management system is the comprehensive risk assessment of the airport. It is clear to say that five to six years ago one will not be talking about security of our airports and because of the scattered location of our airports, the security threat levels are high; the same with the security profiles of each airport, which is different from one another. So we cannot assume that the security prepared for Lagos airport will be suitable for the airport located in Maiduguri.
Through the comprehensive risk assessment you will be able to determine the potential security threat. The gaps that are necessary and the solutions you need, to close those gaps in terms of technology and access control.
Use of Technology in Airport Security
One of the critical factors in aviation security today is the use of technology. Starting from the time simple, metallic detectors to the time of the Lockerbie air disaster when an unaccompanied baggage caused explosion in the air, to the development of liquid and powder being used as improvised explosive devices, technology has become a crucial in airport security.
The use of technology in airport security has evolved over time. The threat on aviation is getting more and more sophisticated. From the introduction of simple, single built body scanner in the 1990s, we now have high tech dual view scanner with capability of automatic detection of explosives. There is also the introduction of biometric and passport readers and very intelligent Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras…all of these is to help in ensuring security in international aviation.
ICAO has also introduced standards to ensure the protection of lives and property in civil aviation. Standard in respect of training on bags and luggage going on board the aircraft and standard in terms of protection of perimeter of the airside. These standards are being domesticated through the various instruction directives through the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) which has the mandatory oversight responsibility.
The Human Element Challenge in Airport Security
Security assessment and technology cannot be successful if you don’t get the human element right in security planning and execution. Without having the right people, you cannot get the others. Aviation security operatives are supposed to be very carefully selected. The first you have to do before the selection process is to ensure that you don’t employ criminals. State Security Service (SSS) must carry out background screening on the people to be employed. They must be given the right education and the right training.
One who conducts the screening of passengers, for example, must pass through the one and two levels of Aviation Screening Training and he or she must score above 80 per cent in order to get certified. That is why it is important that you deploy only certified personnel.
Porous access control at the airside
To stop every possible access to the airside, there should be possible sensors installed that will alert security if anybody or even object goes to the prohibited areas of the airside. There should be intelligent CCTV to monitor activities in that area.
Having the right security personnel ensures that other aspect of security operation will work. If you have corrupt personnel they can easily compromise. The police who now operate at the airport must also undergo the security training, at the level one of aviation security training.
The threat at our airports is real; so concerted efforts should be made to prevent major security breach at these airports.
Terrorists are Always Experimenting
Terrorists are ahead of government security apparatus in devising way to get to their targets. Government learns from every major violent upheaval and destruction carried out by terrorists and invents ways to prevent such from happening again.
This is the why security equipment were invented and security strategies and devices culminated, but there is urgent need for the security system to pre-empt terrorists’ obnoxious and nefarious plans to enthrone fear in the society through bloodletting and destruction.
All over the world, airports are major targets for terrorists and airport managements and governments have taken measures to ensure that lives and properties are protected from terror attacks. But in Nigeria, in spite of the effective job government is doing through security operatives, there is still easy, illegal access to the nation’s airports.
There is poor monitoring of perimeter fencing, some airports in Nigeria do not have perimeter fencing, or are incomplete; most airports were built on lands where the host communities are yet to realise that the airport facilities are off limit so they device ways to still have access to the property that were formerly theirs.
At the airports in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Lagos, Owerri and others, communities that live around the airport try to make use of the seemingly large empty space around the runway. This is dangerous because they provide easy access to those brigands that may want to destroy lives.
Nigeria is signatory to the Chicago Convention that produced the operating standards commonly referred to as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annexes.
The practice of aviation security is guided by the same international principles as enshrined in ICAO annex 17. All things being equal, airport management should ensure full compliance with the operating principles which includes healthy working relationship with all security agencies at the airport, and government making the right investments in training and technology. We are more than capable of protecting our civil aviation.
Cast your mind back to the trend of terrorism in aviation, from the Lockheed, Scotland bombing which led to the introduction of baggage scanning and reconciliation, then to the 9/11 terror attacks in the US which led to implementation of full baggage scanning (hand held or checked in), to the chemical bombs attempts in the UK culminating in the liquids and gels ban, to the Abdulmuttallab pant bomb episode and the introduction of whole body scanners. Our airport management has responded to the trends and complied with ICAO guidelines and directives. We may however expect a more proactive treatment of the emerging trend because of their unique nature.