Rising incidence of stowaways and other problems have exposed the security lapses at the airports. At a conference in Lagos, experts suggested ways to solve the problems, Aviation Correspondent KELVIN OSA-OKUNBOR reports.
Overhauling the security systems in all Nigerian airports is the solution to the various breaches in many of them and sanctions by international regulatory bodies, aviation experts have said.
They spoke at the Fourth Breakfast Aviation Safety Roundtable (ART) last week in Lagos titled: Aviation security in the midst of home grown terrorism.
They said the most worrisome of the challenges is the recurring cases of stowaways who hide in aircraft wheels.
The stowaways, the experts said, could be stopped if the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) insisted on adequate perimeter and security fencing of the airports.
Aviation security expert, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said without these, incidence of people and animals straying into the tarmac would continue. He added that NCAA should be held for any infraction of security.
Others who spoke at the event were Mr Ayo Obilana, Chief Executive Officer, Selective Securities Limited; Aviation Safety Roundtable President, Mr Gbenga Olowo; and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Attaché at the United States Embassy (Western African Region), Mr. Gary Pleus.
They canvassed a redesigning of the airport security architecture to improve security at the gateways. They said the present multiple checks at the airports indicate that no agency is in charge, adding that this could create security lapses.
As a panacea, they called for reduction and harmonisation of screening points by the various agencies, adding that a reduction from about 18 to three screening points as is the practice in the United States would improve security.
Ojikutu said NCAA had not been alive to is responsibility as the
regulator of the industry, adding that there were so many security lapses at the airports but “what we are always talking about is CAT 1 and we are happy. There is nothing in CAT 1; it is a mere paper”.
He said NCAA should re-organise its security plans for the airports and airlines.
“I hold NCAA responsible for security breaches. NCAA should review the security programmes at the airports. Most of the airports in Nigeria have perimeter fences that are not security-enhanced. The perimeter fence at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport is used as part of a private residence.
“There are security threats at all the airports. There is no central security control at the airports. Should anything happen, you cannot hold anybody responsible; everybody would pass the buck. FAAN cannot be in charge of security because it was not established for that purpose.
“If you cannot protect the airlines, you have failed in your responsibility. If NCAA is hamstrung, then there is something wrong with us,” he said.
Obilana said aviation is the prime target of home-grown terrorism, adding that even security operatives at the airports could be terrorists.
“An average air traveller out of our international airports goes through 15 checks. There is a dash table, that is, extortion table. They (checks) are a disgrace. The checks can be reduced to three efficient checkpoints. If there is no security, tourism will not thrive,” he said.
He added: “We need to focus on the Lagos Airport; some of the equipment are obsolete. They have to be updated. We have to look at the issue of insider threats and intensify intelligence gathering.