FG Orders for New Equipment to Improve Airports’ Security

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•To eject illegal residents around Lagos airport

Chinedu Eze

As part of efforts to secure Nigeria’s airports, the federal government has ordered for new technology-based security facilities to be installed at major airports nationwide.

THISDAY also gathered that in order to curb incursions into the country’s busiest airport in Lagos from surrounding urban areas of Mafoloku, Beesam, Valley Estate at Dopemu, Akowonjo, Shasha, Ejigbo, Ajao Estate and others, the government is also set to eject illegal residents in these areas and also erect new perimeter fences.

The Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Hamisu Yadudu, who confirmed this development to THISDAY, said the order for the new facilities followed security breaches at the airports, including the recent incident where a Nigerien jumped on Azman Air flight at the runway of the Lagos airport.

Yadudu said apart from placing orders for some of these facilities, the federal government had also procured more sophisticated scanning security equipment with the latest technology capable of detecting all forms of explosives and narcotics.

According to him, the modern x-ray equipment also includes passenger cabin baggage scanners, hold baggage scanners, body scanners and walk-through metal detectors in addition to explosive trace detectors.
“This is to make sure that every incendiary device, no matter how small and all prohibited items are identified by the devices.

“As we speak, production of the equipment has commenced in earnest in the various factories and delivery date set and on schedule. The five major international airports as well as the major domestic airports and local airports are to be covered in these initiatives.

“The perimeter fences are also not being left out, construction of bi-metal security fence with anti-climb and intrusion detection system is also ongoing in airports like Benin, Ilorin, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna airports.
“The upgrade of the CCTV Surveillance Monitoring Systems is also at an advanced stage of completion; that of Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and four other international airports is scheduled for hand over in the last quarter of this year; while efforts are on to provide the same level of coverage for the smaller airports,” Yadudu said.

THISDAY gathered that there are different angles of threats, especially at the country’s busiest airport, Lagos, including incursions from surrounding urban areas of Mafoloku, Beesam, Valley Estate at Dopemu, Akowonjo, Shasha, Ejigbo, Ajao Estate and others.

However, the FAAN boss told THISDAY that plans have been completed to eject the illegal residents at the aforementioned areas, adding that new perimeter fences would be erected soon at those areas.

He said the agency had been carrying out regular profiling of FAAN’s Aviation Security (AVSEC) regularly to forestall insider threat, which has led to tragic terror attacks in some airports like Sham el Sheik in Egypt a few years ago.
FAAN has also introduced expanded and improved close circuit television (CCTV), intelligence and patrol by security operatives at major airports, he said.

At MMIA it has deployed CCTV in every part of the airport terminal and it currently extending the facility to the runway, taxiway and all the surroundings of the airport.
“To forestall illicit movement at the restricted areas, security operatives escort arriving and departing aircraft from the terminal to the runway and in addition to that; security moles have been deployed at the airside of the airport to monitor illegal movements of people at the airport and to stem possible security breaches,” he added.

Commenting on the measures being put in place to improve airport security, an aviation industry security consultant and CEO of Centurion Securities, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said no provision was made for the minimum clearance of six meters from the perimeter fence.

He added that houses in these areas are using the airport perimeter fence as part of their properties while there have been cases of intrusion from some of these areas into the Lagos airport.
Ojikutu said another major potential security challenge was insider threat in which aviation security officials could be recruited to carry out maximum damage at airport facilities.

“Insiders threats from airport staff when and where there is no sufficient background checks on them before employment; there are others who have been disengaged but whose ID cards and IDC have not been retrieved but somehow gained access to the security controlled areas; there are issues of workers of contractors who are not adequately processed for access to security controlled areas, etc,” he added.

There are many access into the security controlled areas that need to be fortified, outside the 23 kilometres perimeter fence, especially around the cargo terminals, the general aviation operation terminals,” Ojikutu said.

In his contribution, security expert and Chairman of Scope Centre Limited, Bayo Babatunde, told THISDAY that there are new security threats in air transport that could be combated with advanced technology system and urged the federal government to ensure that airports are protected with these modern security system.
“The threats to international aviation continue to evolve as the perpetrators devise methods to contravene procedures and improved counter measure technologies.

“It’s a case of both parties not resting on their oars. While the global governing body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) continues its global oversights and regulations through the ICAO Annex 17, which details the standards and recommended procedures for members contracting bodies, the local regulatory Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for domesticating the international rules in line with the National Security Programme through the National Aviation Security Programme / standards which must adopt the ICAO Standards as minimum standards. In all of these, the safety and continued security of international aviation is the sole objective. It is also important to note here that international aviation is global and the same standards are applicable all over the world.

“There are no local standards . In Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has over the years responded to the global security threats, working with the ICAO and the National Security Office to develop procedures for enhancing the security procedures and technological requirements. A critical element of the NCAA post-911 is the creation of the AVSEC department that is specifically designated for the direct oversights and monitoring/ regulations.

This has enhanced the professional practice of AVSEC at the various Nigerian airports. Over the last decades, the evolution of threats has been rapid and the authorities have worked very hard to ensure unbroken traveling experience. Steps have been taken to improve access controls without sacrificing quality of facilitations and security. A critical element is the continued advancement of science and technology in airport scanners. Now, there are proficient technologies to detect all levels of threats, from drugs and explosives concealed on the body, improved scanners for detecting metals, IEDs and narcotics in hand held and checked in luggage,” Babatunde said.

According to him, the concealment of threats have extended to the deep and light cargoes, pointing out that there are ways to detect all identifiable threats.

He noted that there are human factors in aviation security challenges.
“Contracting states are advised to adopt a most stringent background checks to ensure compromised individuals are not employed as AVSEC operatives. In line with the ICAO standards, AVSEC operatives are expected to undergo continued trainings and evaluation. It is a requirement that operatives must not be colour blind, therefore good vision is critical to the successful scanning operations.

“A colour blind operator will fail in the interpretation of the colour algorithms of the scanning machines. In general, the prosperity of a nation is tied to the safety and security of its aviation sector.

“In conclusion, the improved regulations and oversights by the NCAA, through the special vehicle, AVSEC Regulatory Department, has generally enhanced security of international aviation. Additional investment in modern equipment and technology is required to ensure the airports are up to date with their international counterparts and maintain the category one status with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),” Babatunde explained.