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Experts bemoan threats, demand multi-layer security at nationwide airports

By Wole Oyebade
26 August 2022   |   3:52 am
Experts in the aviation sector, yesterday, bemoaned insecurity in the country, advocating multi-layer security mechanism to safeguard nationwide airports from terrorists.

Experts in the aviation sector, yesterday, bemoaned insecurity in the country, advocating multi-layer security mechanism to safeguard nationwide airports from terrorists.

The stakeholders, at the Breakfast Business Meeting of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) in Lagos, said the disturbing trend calls for a rejig of the airport security architecture in line with the global best practices.

Airports in the country, especially the Kaduna Airport, have recorded security breaches and terrorist attacks that had operatives either killed or abducted. Globally, aerodromes are among the soft targets of terrorists that are aiming to cause havoc and panic.

Former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, noted that the threats are still emerging though not peculiar to Nigeria. Yet, to the country belongs the onerous task of thinking and planning ahead of threats.

Demuren observed that until the 1980s, there were no major aviation security challenges in Africa. Then came the 1993 Nigerian Airways Hijack, when a Lagos-Abuja Flight was diverted to Niamey, Niger Republic. After this was the 9/11 attack in America which changed the face of aviation security globally. Layers of security were introduced in America and beyond.

“In Nigeria, we had the Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab 2010 failed underwear-bomb attempt on KLM/NorthWest Airline. After this incident, the NCAA ordered enhanced multi-layered security measures at our airports, including body scanners.

“The Abdulmutallab incident was the saddest day of my life as the DG NCAA. The Minister of Aviation who told me to go and watch the news woke me up in the middle of the night. It was all over the news that a Nigerian wanted to kill Americans, but the CCTV footage saved us. When we were asked to provide our evidence, we were able to show it to America and what we had then, some big aviation countries didn’t have them,” he said.

Commending security agencies’ contributions to extricating Nigeria from America. Country of Interest watchlist, on account of Abdulmutallab incident, he called for more coordinated efforts at implementing the standard 20 layers of security at the airports.

Among the standard layers are: intelligence gathering of data, customs and border protection, joint terrorism task force, no-fly lists and pre-screening of passengers, crew vetting, Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR), canine, behavioural detection, travel documents checking and checkpoint, and transportation security officers.

Other layers are: checking passenger luggage, transport security inspectors, random screening of employees, transport security specialists in explosives, federal air marshal service, federal flight deck officers, trained flight crew, law enforcement officers, hardened cockpit doors and the passengers, who also have roles in enhancing security.

President of ASRTI, a think-tank group of the aviation sector, Dr. Gabriel Olowo, said in view of the current security deterioration and challenges in Nigeria, it was pertinent for the group to continue to discuss the security situation in the industry.

Olowo lamented that the various communiqués arising from the past breakfast meetings of ASRTI were not implemented by the government. They, however, remain undaunted in propagating safety and security in the sector.

Aviation Security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), reckoned that the Abdulmutallab incident led to increased security apparatus in the local industry.

Ojikutu, however, decried the multiple security desks in the sector, stressing that it was discouraging travellers and investors from coming into the country.

He emphasised that there were some lapses in the profiling of the Abdulmutallab by the various bodies from the Department of State Security (DSS) immigration, Aviation Security (AVSEC) and even the airlines.

“In Aviation Security, the more you look, the more you see; the more you see, do less talking to hear more; the more you hear the better your understanding resulting in credible intelligence,” Ojikutu said.

Another speaker, Ayo Obilana, added that in the U.S., there are only five security checkpoints; three in arrival and two at departure.

But in Nigeria, there are no fewer than 20 security checks at arrival and departure, describing the security system in the country as analog operations. “This for me is analog operations, also known as bank cheque-book mentality that will not help anyone,” he said.