Lagos — The 3D full-body scanners procured for thorough body check of passengers at the nation’s major airports for security reasons are now being abused by security officials from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), THISDAY can confirm.
They use the machines, installed in the wake of the Farouk AbdulMutallab affair, to watch the naked images of female passengers for fun.
The controversial body scanners have been dubbed “e-stripping” in advanced countries because of the way they expose the nakedness of those being screened.
THISDAY discovered that during off-peak periods, the aviation security officials, who are trained on the use of the scanners, usually stroll from the cubicle located in a hidden corner on the right side of the screening area where the 3D full-body scanner monitors are located.
They do so to catch a glimpse of some of the passengers entering the machine and immediately go back to view the naked images, in order to match the faces with the images since the faces are blurred on the monitors while passengers are inside the machine.
The face that appears on the scanner’s monitor is usually blurred so that the operator viewing the full body will not recognise who passes through the machine.
But by coming out to see the passenger in person and then going back to see his or her image, the objective of protecting the privacy of the passenger has been defeated.
THISDAY observed this development first-hand when it visited the screening area, passed through the conventional screening machine at 3pm last Saturday and observed that passengers were reluctant to use the new 3D full-body scanner.
To compel them to use it, one of the conventional scanners was put out of service, leaving the ones at the left end and another very close to the new scanner.
A FAAN senior official expressed shock in an interview with THISDAY, saying: “It is a breach of privacy. I will deal with it immediately I return to Lagos.”
The official informed THISDAY that the actual passengers the scanner was meant for were US-bound passengers, who travel with Arik Air and Delta Air Lines.
But when THISDAY visited the airport last Saturday, these airlines were not checking in passengers.
In fact, it was only Emirates that had opened its check-in desk and passengers were just trickling in and passing through the screening machines.
“In Lagos, we ensure that passengers going to US through Arik Air and Delta pass through the full-body scanner. It is not compulsory for all passengers, but in Abuja all passengers meant for international flights pass through the full-body scanner,” said the FAAN official.
THISDAY also learnt that two out of the four scanners at the Lagos airport are working, while the other two are not working because of non-functional monitors.
So far, only one 3D full-body scanner is working at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
FAAN recently ordered and procured 10 of the machines, which would be deployed in the four major airports in the country.
Since the failed underwear bomb attempt of US airliner by AbdulMutallab, in Detroit, Michigan, major airports in the world have deployed the 3D full body scanners for total body screening of passengers and crew to ensure safety in air travel.
However, there is anxiety over passengers’ complete cooperation with the new screening method as some of them express fear that the radiation from the screening equipment is capable of causing health disorders like skin cancer.
Also, another class of passengers are resisting going through the screening machines for religious reasons, insisting that it is against their religion to expose their nakedness.
An aviation security expert told THISDAY in Lagos: “The scanner is capable of detecting and revealing substances that could pose security threats concealed on a person’s body that other screening devices, such as metal detectors, cannot detect. The scanner can even reveal very small quantities of liquid explosives, non-metallic weapons, and plastic explosives that could be inimical to aviation safety.”
The new device is expected to boost security operations at the nation’s airports, as it helps to eliminate the threats posed by terrorists, drug carriers, and it will help to improve the image of the country on security.