Aviation security is one of the critical areas of aviation, which determines the certification and rating of any airport in the world.
Aviation security plays the important role of ensuring the security of passengers and other airport users and the Aviation Security (AVSEC) officials need to be in adequate number, according to the category of the airport, and they also need to be exposed to training and retraining at regular intervals.
Aviation security is Annex 17 in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The world body said the most important legislative function performed by ICAO is the formulation and adoption of Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPS) for international civil aviation.
These are incorporated into the 19 technical annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention.
Recently aviation security stakeholders under the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) identified factors, which impede and threaten airport security and called for the recruitment of more AVSEC personnel and reinforced training of personnel in addition to adequate remuneration for the sensitive job they do.
Some of these factors include insider threat, which they noted portends potential internal risk to airlines and airports. They also identified civil unrest and wars, which they noted threaten flights in the airspace of conflict zones. They also identified misinformation about flight schedules as one of the factors that causes insecurity at Nigeria’s airports.
These were brought to the fore during the safety week organised by the FAAN with the theme: ‘Promoting Staff working behind the scenes for Aviation Safety’.
In a presentation, a former General Manager at the Aviation Security department of FAAN, Dr. Hope Bassey, who presented a paper narrated how she suffered multiple miscarriages as a result of the stress she passed through as an AVSEC staff.
She explained that aviation security is about the protection of air navigation and airport facilities, aircraft, passengers, crew, members of the public, cabin and hold baggage, cargo mail, and catering supplies from criminals and their acts of sabotage, hijacking, or terrorism.
Bassey excoriated the system, saying that AVSEC workers are usually overlooked and underappreciated despite the fact that they undergo the most stressful work, which she said led to the demise of some of the staff. She observed that aviation security threats and hazards manifest themselves in different forms but that one of the most important ways to avert it is by ensuring that security officials are given enough incentives to ensure that they carry out their duties effectively.
“Aviation security threats and hazards manifest themselves in different forms such as: Insider threats presenting potential internal risks to airlines and airport authorities, civil unrest and war impacting aircrew in airspace with conflicts zones, misinformation about flight schedules, inadequately documented passengers and cases,” Bassey said.
She further said shortage of manpower makes existing personnel to over work themselves and this leads to stress, ill-health and sometimes untimely death.
She also identified actions by both passengers and airport staff, aircraft noise, undulating weather, sensitive materials (touch, smell), frequent bending to load bags into the X-ray machine, and frisking of numerous passengers (pat-down), and other forms of screening constitute implicit hazard to the health of AVSEC personnel.
She suggested counter measures the industry needs to take, noting, “Access control, screening, protection of aircraft. Most proactive hazards identification methods are: Surveys, audits, inspections, tests workplace inspection checklist with relevant industry hazards.”
During brainstorming section, there were different suggestions posed by industry observers who attended the safety week. Some of the suggestions indicated that FAAN could undertake life insurance for the AVSEC personnel to ensure that if they are permanently injured on duty or in the case of death there would be adequate compensation to the family of those personnel.
In his welcome address, the Managing Director of FAAN, Kabir Yusuf, said: “This event is a great opportunity for colleagues and friends to come together and learn about a pertinent aspect of the aviation industry. Safety is the key component of this industry, and those who work backstage to ensure that there is zero harm, and zero casualties must be lauded. I sincerely appreciate your time and effort and value even more your future support in taking safety in the aviation sphere to the next level. The forum was an interactive one, enabling us to evaluate our past activities, give analysis to services rendered, especially considering the unseen staff, draw up modalities and celebrate our wins.
“We as FAAN will continue to support the activities of the safety services team as part of our commitment to ensuring a customer-centric experience. As this year has shown, things will not always be rosy, and it is only in unity of purpose that success can be achieved. We will constantly be tested in our management and handling of situations that will arise involving those who are within the aviation industry, and those who are without.”
The Managing Director also said that it is now that the workers of the agency, especially AVSEC, should rise to the occasion in handling these issues, while upholding “our values and ideals that sets us apart. I thank you all for gracing this occasion, and I realise your being here is a show of faith in our collective commitment to promoting a Safety Culture, and a Safe working environment in our airports. I thank you for your commitment in ensuring an improvement of stable Safety Quality in the aviation sphere. On a final note, I wish to emphasize that with all of us working together and in tandem, great things can be achieved.”
Some of those who attended the event gave testimony about the efficient work AVSEC personnel do at various airports in the country. Some of the attendees of the event gave account of how they forgot their valuables during security screening but were able to get them back when they informed AVSEC officials.
A particular incident involved a passenger who forgot his wallet containing cash in foreign and local currencies in addition to other documents and travelled to London. He notified FAAN authorities and the wallet was located and every content intact. The passenger was overwhelmed with excitement.
“I never know that these people (AVSEC) are so efficient. I had given up hope. These are the good things we should be talking about. Who would have believed that I forgot my wallet and after many days I was able to get it back. This can only happen in few airports because this wallet contains dollars,” he said.