Airport users and aviation security experts have expressed concern over illicit activities by persons employed as cleaners at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the concessionaire to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which recruited the cleaners, allegedly pays them N15, 000 monthly and most often the payment is delayed.
So, the cleaners come to the airport and allegedly engage in other illicit activities in order to earn money and sustain themselves.
Industry security expert and the CEO of Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd), told THISDAY that allowing such persons who are poorly paid access to sensitive areas of the airport constitute security threat and could lead to serious security breach.
Ojikutu said the cleaners are a good example of what is referred to as insider threat in the security apparatus of the airport because they could be induced by terror organisation or terrorists and used to gain access to sensitive areas of the airport.
However, he said that FAAN could stop the potential threat by engaging with the concessionaire and make sure that the welfare of the cleaners is improved and also the agency should monitor their activities henceforth.
“There are a lot of things FAAN can do to stop this. FAAN should call the concessionaire and direct him to take care of the workers. It must ensure that 60 to 70 per cent of the money paid to the concessionaire by FAAN goes to take care of those workers,” Ojikutu said.
He also suggested that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) must oversight FAAN and the concessionaire because safety issues are very critical so the regulatory authority must know what is happening at the airport to ensure pre-emptive prevention of possible security breach.
“NCAA must oversight whatever FAAN and the concessionaire are doing. These are what we call the insider threat. Even the FAAN workers at the airport could be a threat; that was why I recommended that they should be given incentives by improving their welfare. FAAN must know what the concessionaire gives to the cleaners.
“If FAAN is not satisfied it could stop the concessionaire and then make alternative arrangement for the cleaning of the terminal,” Ojikutu also said.
An official of one of the foreign airlines that operates from the airport told THISDAY that beyond the cleaning job they do, the cleaners engage in many other things in which they are paid for by passengers.
“They help passengers with their luggage, they pick and deliver information for some people, they are used by some unscrupulous officials to sell government documents like yellow card and I heard that they help some travellers to take illegal goods like currency and even drugs to the airside.
“I have been working in this airport for many years and I know that if you don’t have your yellow card and you want to travel you can go to them and you will obtain it after payment. Anyone can go and confirm this. Sometimes people sympathise with them, knowing that they are paid poorly,” the official told THISDAY.
THISDAY spoke to the General Manager, Corporate Communication of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu who said FAAN is aware of the situation of the cleaners, had held meetings over their issues and last year, it reviewed the cleaning contract given to the concessionaire and insisted on improved minimum wage for the cleaners.
She also said Aviation Security (AVSEC) personnel of FAAN monitor the activities of the cleaners and control their movement when necessary.
“Honestly, FAAN is actively working daily to ensure that compromises are done away with. The airport management and operating structure also reflects this through the terminal duty officers and environment officers and of course, AVSEC officers who directly monitor and initiate corrective action when needed.
“Management reviewed upwards cleaning contractors cost last year and inserted a new clause in the contracts to assure that a minimum wage cost for cleaners to protect them against possible exploitation by employers. It is the financial effect of the global pandemic COVID-19 that has delayed the implementation of this review,” she said.