Chinedu Eze and Chiemelie Ezeobi
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday conducted a counter terrorism exercise at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos, in preparation for real life situations.
With the simulated exercises, which sent chills down the spines of passengers at the airport, the air force said it was prepared to counter any attempts for terrorists to attack airports nationwide and take hostages.
The counter-terrorism attack which was codenamed ‘Exercise Thunder Bolt.’ saw a simulated experience of terrorists taking passengers hostage and demanding for outrageous amounts to set them free.
While the operation was going on, passengers scampered to safety during the shooting between the air force officers and suspected terrorist who had earlier hijacked the airport.
Responding to questions afterwards, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, said the counter-terrorism attack was to reassure the public of the readiness and preparedness of the air force to protect the nation’s territorial domain either in the air or on land.
He said: “The whole essence of this exercise is to evaluate the quick response force of our personnel.
“These are highly trained and skilled individuals who have been trained to protect our airports and to make sure our airports are safe from terrorism and any kind of threat.
“So the essence of this exercise is for us to really evaluate and understand how effective they are going to be in case we have this kind of challenge.
“And it is not an exercise that is just conducted by the air force alone, you need to interface with other agencies of government like the airport authority and so on.
“So the whole idea is to have an understanding of what kind of tranquility we have in the event we are required to function in.
“I am happy we have been able to test the plans we have for this airport and there is a remarkable improvement on the one conducted in Abuja, but whatever gaps there are we will go back and fix it.
“The evaluators are here to see if the plans can be effective. What we want is to have a force that will be effective in the event of attack on our airport.
“You can have the training, you can have the skills, but unless you are tested from time to time you won’t be able to know if there will be gaps.
“I am very happy with what i have seen. There are few gaps which we are going to address which is even why we are conducting the exercises for us to see how effective are we going to be in case we are called to protect Nigerians or the airports.
“But from what we have seen I am very happy with the cooperation between the agencies, the army, police, civil defence and so on.
“We are happy we are able to conduct, plan together and simulate and access an exercise together. We are going to do a similar exercise in most of the airports in Nigeria.’
When asked if passengers who were not aware about the exercise sustained any injury, Abubakar said: “In real situations, things like that can happen and that is why we have the medical services, the hospital officials and the ambulances.
“The whole idea is for us to access ourselves, are we in a good position to protect Nigerians and i can tell you that from what I have seen, we have done well.”
The exercise was attended by the Air Officer Commanding, Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal Sani Ahmed; the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai; FAAN Managing Director, Saleh Dunoma; Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello; the Director, Air Traffic Services, AVM Charles Otegbade, among other senior officers.
Chinedu Eze and Chiemelie Ezeobi