Following the initial theft of airfield lighting at the Runway 18R, known as international runway, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has put some measures in place that will help fortify the security of the airport and other airports in Nigeria that are currently being managed by the agency. Since the theft, security operatives have arrested some suspects. They were arrested for either trying to unearth cables or seen accessing the restricted airside, signifying improvement in the security status of the airport. When the theft took place the management of FAAN took drastic actions by suspending those whose duties were linked to protecting the airside of the airport, the facilities at the airside and those directly involved in monitoring the construction work, which is still on-going at the international runway.
FAAN also set up a team to investigate several incidents of theft at the airports because the suspects who stole the cables did so more then once. The first time they came they stole a part of the lighting system and the second time they stole whatever remained of the system. THISDAY also confirmed that after the first part of the system was stolen, FAAN management directed the Head of Electrical Services to remove the remaining part of the airfield system but this directive was not obeyed and that remaining part of the airfield lighting was stolen after the first theft. This led to the suspension of 11 officials whose duties were connected to protecting the stolen facility, the airside and who have access to the runway and environs.
Since the suspension, there have been reports in the online media, attacking FAAN management for the suspension of the officers, thereby inciting the public against the decision taken by the agency. Those who were suspended then include Chief of Airport Security, Head of Department (HOD), Electrical, HOD, Crime, HOD Airfield operations and one acting General Manager, Aviation Security (AVSEC), HOD, Environment and others. Inside FAAN source told THISDAY that investigation carried out so far has exposed laxity of concerned personnel and possible insider job. Also, information gathered from those who were arrested indicated that the suspects had always had easy access to the airport facilities until the security system was fortified after the thefts. The source disclosed that there was apparently insider facilitation that enabled easy access to the airport facilities and alleged that it was those involved and who may be indicted by the investigation that were “planting stories’ in online medium; maybe, to divert attention or to antagonize the FAAN management and cast it in bad light.” In one of such reports, the Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. Kabir Yusuf Muhammed, was accused of purchasing official vehicle for about N200 million, but FAAN in its reaction, denied it.
According to a statement from FAAN, “This is to inform the general public that the claim that the FAAN Managing Director, Mr. Kabir Yusuf Muhammed approved N200 million for the purchase of Toyota Land Cruiser for himself as his official vehicle is false. Since his assumption of office, FAAN’s MD does not have any official car and did not buy any for anyone. When some old vehicles were refurbished for the newly appointed Directors, the MD was given one but he had to return it because the vehicles did not go round. “A contract for the Procurement of operation vehicles was awarded by the former Managing Director. They are yet to be supplied. The vehicle he is using to work does not belong to FAAN. The vehicle’s registration number could be verified through the appropriate authorities.” Former Managing Director of FAAN, Richard Aisuebeogun, described insider threat as a perceived threat to an organization that comes from people within theorganization, such as employees, former employees, contractors or business associates, who have inside information concerning the organisation’s security practices, data and computer systems. The threat may involve fraud, the theft of confidential or commercially valuable information, the theft of intellectual property, or the sabotage of computer systems or facilities at the airport.
The Lagos airport has a record of high number of stowaways and this is attributed to frequent security breaches due to possible insider collaboration. Aviation security expert and CEO of Centurion Aviation and Safety Consult, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said stowaway happens because of insider collaboration. It is also the same with theft of airport facilities, especially from the airside, which is a highly restricted area that is accessed with identifiable checks like the on duty card (ODC). “If stowaway happens, hold the airport security operatives or authority at the operating/security restricted area responsible. If it is a stowaway, he must have been an airport/airline staff or former staff who has worked closely with aircraft or must have been a mole ‘working’ in the airport, or could have been aided by someone (insiders threat) working in the airport restricted area. It tells me that the airport security programmes do not include patrol nor internal surveillance of the flight maneuvering/grounds areas. “MMIA is one major airport in the country that is within the urban development area of four most populated LGAs of Lagos and complicated road networks. No matter the sophistication of the security equipment in our airports if the operatives and supervising authorities are not skilled or dedicated, the equipment is as good as nothing,” Ojikutu said.
Sensing the ulterior motive of those pushing reports against the management of FAAN, due to the suspension of those agency officers in relation to the theft of the runway lighting, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), in a press statement, said the union stood with the Managing Director of FAAN. NUATE described the alleged vehicle purchase as “the evil machination of some over ambitious elements within the system who are hell bent on tarnishing the image and reputation of the MD.” As Ojikutu pointed out, there cannot be efficient security system if there is insider threat. It is the responsibility of FAAN to fish out those who may be sabotaging the security system at the Lagos airport.