Anyone that travels regularly would notice, both on domestic and international departures that security operatives request for money from travellers.
It has been confirmed that corruption among security operatives at the nation's airports, especially the ever busy Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos may threaten the safety of passengers, aircraft and the airport itself.
Eye witness account has exposed how security officials collude with passengers to smuggle banned materials, including hard objects to the aircraft by collecting bribes and allowing them to board with carry-ons (hand luggage) containing the illegal objects.
The Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, who once confirmed this, recalled his experience that while not knowing who he was, some Aviation Security (AVSEC) officials had asked him for money; one even asked for his wrist watch!
Demuren said that when these security officers solicit for money from the passengers they compromise their professional duties of ensuring that the passengers do not board flights with prohibited materials and in such compromised state, could connive with dangerous passengers and breach security, a situation that can lead to fatalities.
He said that the most efficacious way to fight terrorism is the use of technology, noting that terrorists have advantages over the society because they have time to plan; they have funding and they are ready to die. The people that are meant to protect you are the ones that will blow you."
THISDAY spoke with aviation security expert, Adebayo Babatunde, who said that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) security standard that took effect from January 2006, articles of annex 17 made it clear that all luggage that are in-bound must go through screening and any deviation from this is a breech.
"If you don't screen you allow threat items into the aircraft thereby compromising safety and security."
But an insider at the airport told THISDAY that such corrupt practice occurs regularly.
"They don't have skilled people and sometimes you will see the person monitoring the close circuit camera (CCTV) using it to watch Premiership. If he is part of the cartel he will freeze the camera. Most of the security operatives are not trained so the issue of certification does not arise."
A former senior official of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), M.K. Jibrin, encapsulated the security breach and corruption that pervade the nation's airports. He identified those involved in touting to include uniformed officers that work for FAAN, NDLEA, Immigration and other security operatives at the airports.
These officials who have become touts he said refuse to go on transfer and often lobby to return to the airport immediately they are posted out to another station outside the airport.
It was this fact that prompted FAAN management two weeks ago to redeploy all security officials that had spent up to three years at the strategic airports in the country. And within the few days that action was taken fraudsters were arrested with two Hungarian women who arrived the country on the suspect's invitation. They women were immediately repatriated after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted their embassy in Nigeria.
Babatunde told THISDAY that the involvement of security operatives in touting has been as old as the airport in Lagos and traced it to what is referred to as the Bingo syndrome.
"Security operatives getting involved in facilitating the movement of drug couriers has been a long standing problem which can be traced to the bingo syndrome that came as a result of some relationship between security operatives with passengers carrying fake passports or drugs.
"Few measures were taken in the past to end the relationship and these included removal of some of the security officers from the airports; some were dismissed out rightly about four-five years ago."
Just last week Aviation Security (AVSEC) officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) arrested passengers with pistols in their luggage at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The passengers were Nigerians whose names were not disclosed for security reasons and who claimed that the guns were brought in from the USA for their personal protection while in Nigeria.
The passenger on Delta flight claimed to have declared the gun to the airline before checking in his luggage at the airport of departure.
Without proper scrutiny of passengers, these guns might not have been found and that would encourage terrorists and other criminals to use the airport to carry out their nefarious and obnoxious activities. - Chinedu Eze
Navy Court Martials Senior Officer for Misconduct
A high-ranking officer of the Nigerian Navy (NN), (name withheld) is being court-martialed for 'indiscipline and gross misconduct', THISDAY investigation has revealed.
The senior officer, who used to head one of the naval units in Lagos, was accused of assigning some naval personnel as security details offshore without the 'full' certification of the naval authorities, a claim he has since denied.
Although the accused person was also affected by the massive transfer in the navy, it was gathered that he is yet to report to his new duty post because of his current travails.
It was also gathered that the reason for the delay in assuming his new post was because the senior officer has been mandated to report to the command on a daily basis pending the outcome of the court martial.
Though sources say the outcome of the investigation is uncertain at this stage, it was gathered that the accused person has already been handed over to the current commander of the unit so as not to stall productivity in the chain of command.
THISDAY checks reveal that the said Naval Commodore was fingered in the messy deal after the two ratings he allegedly sent to guide the vessel were arrested by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba.
The said vessel was one of the 17 interrogated or arrested by the CNS during the just-concluded sea exercise tagged operation Farauta (an Hausa word for hunting) held last November on the Gulf of Guinea.
On sighting the said vessel from the NNS Thunder, some men were sent over following the failure of the ship's personnel to explain their presence at sea. It was then, investigation reveal that the two ratings were discovered on board. They told their captors that they were merely following orders from their boss.
Meanwhile, attempts by THISDAY to ascertain whether the panel has ended its sitting or not proved abortive.