Stakeholders Condemn FG’s Plan to Equip Aviation Security with Arms, Say It’s against ICAO Standard Practice

Chinedu Eze

Aviation security experts and other stakeholders in the industry have condemned the recent announcement by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) of its plan arm Aviation Security (AVSEC), the outfit in charge of security at all airports and recognised by the International Civil Aviation Security (ICAO).  

On Tuesday this week, FAAN deployed about 120 AVSEC ‘Special Forces’ across international airports in the country.

Former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had in March 2018, spoke of the plan to arm AVSEC. According to him, “The Federal Government of Nigeria has approved AVSEC to bear arms, which is a notable achievement in this administration’s effort at improving the general safety of its citizenry and passengers passing through our airports.”

But aviation security experts and others have condemned the decision to arm AVSEC personnel, describing the move as an act to militarise civil aviation, insisting that is not in consonance with ICAO standards.

As an update of Annex 17, which has to do with Aviation Security, ICAO recently introduced the International Civil Aviation Organization’s new edition of the Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP).

The GASeP was designed to enhance the international aviation security environment by providing detailed guidance to governments, industry, and other stakeholders with emphasis with intelligence gathering.

The new security plan focuses on six global aviation security priority areas, which include risk awareness and response; the preservation of a strong and effective security culture; human factors (including human performance and the professionalization of the aviation security workforce); innovation and the allocation of technological resources; oversight and quality assurance and cooperation and support among stakeholders.

Reacting to the decision by FAAN to arm AVSEC, Aviation Security expert and the CEO of Centurion Security and Safety Consult, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said aviation security was not about force application nor its multiplication but more of profiling behavioural patterns of all those connected to civil aviation activities be they passengers, crew members, airports workers, visitors, or others.

Ojikutu who is former Commandant of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos (MMIA) said: “Application of forces is for contingency plan should there be a breach on the defence layers. The defence force cannot be from any of the security agencies working at the airports. We need to think out of the box but we got into it way back before the 9/11. We were in the same box with the US before the 9/11 but the US followed the pattern we had at MMIA in 1993 at the MMIA. Unfortunately, political interferences in the aviation agencies killed the career progressions of most professionals in FAAN, and that is why today we have about six geographical security agencies in the airport all carrying guns without a unified control and management. Whatever is been done now by FAAN, Keyamo who is the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development or the National Security Adviser (NSA) cannot work unless they learn from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transport Security Administration (TSA).”

Ojikutu suggested that the government could adopt the US TSA style whereby trained security personnel that could be selected from the Director State Service  (DSS) to wear uniform different from Immigration, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Customs, AVSEC to manage security at the airport.

“Security function is not the primary function of FAAN but airports development, operation and management. What is being developed by the management of the aviation agencies is to run away further from the planned concession of the airports which sooner than later will make things in the Nigerian commercial aviation get worse than it is today,” Ojikutu said.

Ojikutu also said that ICAO requires each member state to set up a National Aviation Security Committee not a Civil Aviation Security Committee.

“The National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP) requires FAAN to coordinate security at the airports. Can FAAN do that on the multiple security agencies at the airports without conflict? US faced that problem too before the 9/11 and the Al Gore (former US Vice President) recommendations brought about the establishment of the TSA of the US. We need an autonomous security agency; not multiple and not from those with primary responsibility of commercial services and not FAAN either but the DSS,” he said.

Also, a seasoned pilot who has worked with the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) and other airlines told THISDAY that arming Aviation Security was not the right thing to do.

“My personal opinion is that we have too many agencies carrying arms. Can’t we have one body responsible, like the TSA in the USA for our airports? Having said that; this decision to arm AVSEC has been a joint decision from the highest levels of our national security architecture; so one can’t really argue as to why this has occurred. It is hoped good cooperation and coordination between these armed government agencies will exist and not competition, as to who is the lead security agency.  Security is constantly being reviewed and changed for the better. Intelligence, which we don’t have access to, is key here,” the pilot said.

Also, the Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, told THISDAY that carrying arms does not guarantee capacity to perform primary role by AVSEC but by ensuring that AVSEC is effectively supplied with state-of-the-art security equipment to counter security threats at the airports.

“Carrying arms does not guarantee capacity to perform primary role by AVSEC.

Performance should have been emphasised by ensuring AVSEC is equipped with facilities to be able to carry out surveillance, to be able to carry out needed on-time interdiction upon observed security breach. Profiling of passengers and staff, real time surveillance coverage of the airport and environments remains best security instruments for use by the airport management. Continuous public enlightenment to airport users helps in awareness and proper conduct by airport users. “he said.

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