Aviation security experts have warned that urgent action must be taken to protect Nigerian airports from being infiltrated by terrorists.
They insisted that currently, all such facilities in the country are porous and accessible to those who may want to inflict maximum damage to travellers and other airport users.
Former Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport gave the warning and urged government to urgently provide funds to build perimeter and security fences at the airports, regretting that no airport in the country has comprehensive perimeter fences, which exposes them to incursions by unauthorised persons.
He said that it was at the mercy of God that none of the nation’s airports have been attacked by terrorists or other dangerous persons because the security apparatus at the airports cannot prevent access by unscrupulous elements.
“The major problem we have in our airports in terms of security is perimeter fencing. There is no airport in this country that has comprehensive perimeter fence. MMIA, Lagos is fenced but that fence is open at Ejigbo, Shasha and Ajao Estate areas.
“Anybody can have access to the airport through these places. The security operatives on duty at this airport are at the mercy of God because they cannot monitor every part of the airport.
“We need standard fence. The airside of the airport is not adequately covered with Close Circuit Television (CCTV). The security personnel that monitor activities at the airport have only three patrolling vehicles for four terminals, which include the international, the domestic terminal, the General Aviation Terminal and the cargo terminal.
“These vehicles can only operate if the airport manager has money to fuel them; if not, they would not be used.”
The former CSO said inadequate funding and planning had impeded airport security in Nigeria and disclosed that in some airports cows are chased away from the runway10 minutes before the landing of aircraft and 10 minutes before aircraft take off.
“I don’t think that government does not have money to do this but is it priority. How much does it cost one to install a CCTV?
“Without uninterrupted electric supply to the airport the security equipment cannot work; so there should be dedicated power supply. There should be no power outage at the airport because unscrupulous people can do maximum damage within few minutes of darkness,” the former CSO said.
Also the former Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Richard Aisuebeogun, has stressed that terrorists prefer causing havoc at the airports because that is where they can easily be noticed, secure maximum publicity and frighten the world, so every action must be taken to ensure that the airports are secured.
Aisuebeogun, pointed out that airports and aircraft continue to offer series of highly attractive targets to terrorists and insurgents for certain reasons. Some of these he listed to include high value of aircraft, “the concentration of people (often representing different nationalities), the automatic media coverage (breaking news/headlines) generated by aviation related terrorism due to the drama, publicity and psychological effect associated with it and the uniqueness of airlines and airports as veritable instruments of national identity, which makes it targets for terrorist attacks.”
However, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, said the agency has reinvigorated the security apparatus at the airports with the support of the federal government.
“We have reinforced our security at the international airports both on passengers and on luggage. We have CCTV at the airside that is working 24 hours and we also have at the terminals.
“They are all working 24 hours. We also have joint military patrol team, the joint military task force that accompanies aircraft while taxiing to take off and on arrival. We ensure that we monitor every movement at the airport and we have patrol the fences of these major airport.”
THISDAY learnt that there had been efforts made to provide perimeter fencing and other security equipment at various airports in the country but most of these efforts had remained inconclusive.