Experts Warn against Frequent Security Breaches at Airports

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Chinedu Eze

Aviation security experts have warned that if the frequent security breaches at the airports continue it may lead to threat of lives and property, which would be injurious to the image of Nigeria and the air transport sector.

Last week, a 25-year-old man was caught at the runway of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, attempting to hide in aircraft wheel-well of Air Peace flight.

He was, however, arrested by Aviation Security of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). Earlier this year, similar incident happened where a middle-aged man identified as Nigerien attempted to climb Azman Air aircraft on the same runway but was stopped and eventually he was arrested by security operatives.

There have also been unconfirmed reports of runway incursion, where it was alleged that some people access the airside of the airport to rob aircraft at withholding point, waiting for another aircraft movement.

Owing to this, industry security consultant and CEO of Centurion Securities, Group Capt John Ojikutu (retd), has warned that FAAN and concerned security operatives should reinforce security at the airports.
Ojikutu, said that major security challenge is insider threat in which aviation security officials could be recruited by terrorists to carry out maximum damage at airport facilities.

“Insiders threats from airport staff when and where there are 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 into to security controlled areas, etc. “There are many access into the security controlled areas that need to be fortified, outside the 23km perimeter fence, especially around the cargo terminals, the general aviation operation terminals, etc.”, Ojikutu said.

The Managing Director of FAAN, Captain Hamisu Yadudu had acknowledged in a recent interview after the recent incident, that there could be insider threats at the airport who could help would-be stowaways to access the airport.

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 systems.

“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 Program through the National Aviation Security Program / standards which must adopt the ICAO Standards as minimum standards,” he explained.

Babatunde added: “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 added.