Terror Threat: Aviation Security Personnel to Bear Arms

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Chinedu Eze
The Federal Government has completed plans to arm aviation security (AVSEC) personnel who are the primary security operatives at the airports with guns, in the face of current terror threat.

Government also has given consideration to the abuse and influx of passengers to the restricted areas of the airport by sometimes unruly passengers, thus causing security breach, which is sensitive and dangerous in the airport environment.

This was made known yesterday by the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika at a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Sheraton Hotel, Lagos.
Sirika said the AVSEC personnel would be retrained, well kitted, profiled and given, not only guns but sniffer dogs so that they would improve the security apparatus of the airports.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), only AVSEC personnel are recognised in civil aviation and in Nigeria there are other security operatives who render auxiliary services at the airport but were not trained in civil aviation security. The Minister said he has met with the Ministry of Interior on how to train and equip AVSEC officials and how to choose the type of guns they would be armed with, adding that the training was billed to kick off as quickly as possible.

“Government has decided to reposition AVSEC to make them more effective in the face of terror threats and control of sometimes unruly passengers. So we want to fashion the AVSEC in the mould of Transport Security Administration (TSA) of the US so that they will carry guns, have sniffer gods and will be well kitted.
We are going to train them more on how to carry guns. So we have contacted the Ministry of Interior that will choose the type of gun they will carry and the type of training they will receive,” the Minister said.

Sirika at the meeting disclosed that the new airport terminals at the four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt are facing technical challenges because of the way they were located at the airports.

He specifically pointed out that the terminal at the Abuja airport was located at the wrong area where it blocked control tower, fire services and apron and the way it was built would not allow large-body aircraft ‎to taxi to the terminal.

The Minister said all these facilities would have to be knocked down and it would cost over N6 billion to relocate and rebuilt these infrastructure. The Federal Government obtained $500 million from China to build the terminals in the four major airports.

Sirika said he facilitated the concession of forex to airlines by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but noted that the CBN rule stated that the airlines would have to wait for 60 days before accessing the funds but his office is trying to resolve the issue so that the airlines would get the funds directly without delays.

The Minister also confirmed that the process of concessioning ‎of the major airports in the country is in progress, noting that the population of the country is growing while the airport infrastructure is decaying and as government does not have money to funds their expansion, it becomes inevitable that they would be concessioned to allow the private sector to fund the expansion of the facilities.