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Stakeholders bemoan security attacks, loopholes at airports

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Murtala Muhammad International Airport

*Beware of insiders’ threats, Ojikutu warns

Aviation stakeholders have bemoaned heightened security concerns and attacks in and around airports nationwide, saying nothing has changed after many years of raising the alarm.

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Though they acknowledged that the airport could rarely be immured from general insecurity, experts said the aerodromes are national security and deserved better intelligence and new counter security measures.

Similarly, Aviation Security Consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), has said the major security compromises are those that would come from within the airports.

The fresh complaint is not unconnected with the recent red flag raised by the Ministry of Aviation over planned attacks on some major airports nationwide.

The Ministry of Aviation, in a memo addressed to airport security chiefs, stated that criminals were planning to attack airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, and Kano.

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Indeed, there had lately been a spate of gunmen attacks on some airport facilities, including staff quarters at Kaduna International Airport, where workers of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) were kidnapped.

Ojikutu, who is a former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, in the 90s, said happenings across the States could be a rehearsal of “bigger things waiting to happen”.

“I have said this several times and it seems there are no sufficient knowledge or understanding or careful assessments of the local, states and national intelligence judging from the various attacks we have seen at Kaduna airports and other States agencies sharing the same boundaries.

“The attacks on the police station in Owerri are not different and no one should look too far from the targets of these attacks for those who perpetrated the planning and the acts; both have insiders’ collusions. Find the insiders’ collusions first before you get the others from outsiders. Nobody would come outside the target area to attack it without pre-knowledge of the target areas, security and strength,” Ojikutu said.

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He added that given the recent alarm by the Federal Government on airports, national security or intelligence estimates should be sent to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for onward transmission to all operators – both public and private.

He said airports are not the only targets for terrorists to attack; but also parked aircraft, car parks, fuel depots, and so on.

“They require similar directives from the responsible aviation security authority. First, since all operators have approved security programmes by the NCAA all that is required is for the NCAA to use the security intelligence estimates to update the National Civil Aviation Security Programmes (NCASP) and send it down to all the operators under its oversight, as directives not advisory.

“Second, I will suggest in addition to the circular, the need to urgently include car parks, fuel depots and the airport service roads at MMA (connecting the terminals) as security restricted areas. There should be improved surveillance on all access into the airport security controlled areas. Increase patrols on both sides of the airport perimeter fence (23km). Reduce the number of visitors, meeters and seers; this must include the control of the VIP escorts. In addition to all these, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) must close the Beesam Access and Exist Route Road into the MMA Airport Transit Access Road.”

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Another security expert, Benjamin Inoyo, reckoned that restricting access to critical areas is a global standard and should be followed to the letters at this critical time.

Inoyo noted that the approved pass used by airport staffers is denominated by colour codes and they indicate the limit of a worker’s access.

“I believe the authorities should be able to track all entries and exits around the critical facility, given the security fears on our hands. Airports are always a soft target for terrorists globally. But we have had loopholes for too long. Aviation security or Immigration officers begging passengers for money is a potential risk to the safety of all. I expect such embarrassing scenes to have been averted a long time ago, but no. However, having an inclination of the coming threat is a big discovery. I expect a radical approach to avert the risk.”

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