The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has explained that its recent ban on illegal foreign currency exchanges at all airports was informed by security concerns, following the robbery attack at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on March 13. Two policemen were killed and one of the suspected armed robbers was gunned down in the incident.
The agency said the attack was apparently targeted at illegal currency exchange operators at the car park, some of whom lost huge sums of money, estimated at about N8 million, to the armed robbers.
General Manager, Corporate Communication of FAAN, Yakubu Dati, said that similar attacks had taken place at the airport in the past, leading to the loss of lives.
"The authority has the statutory responsibility of ensuring safety and security at the airports and can no longer tolerate such breach of security at our airports, which are classified as national security zones, as a result of the activities of illegal currency operators," Dati said.
FAAN urged passengers and other airport users to make use of banking facilities and licensed bureaux de change, located within the airport terminals, for all their currency exchange transactions.
"This is the standard practice at airports all over the world, aside from the fact that the focus of the transformation agenda in the aviation industry is to ensure that services at all our airports comply with acceptable international standards and practices," he added.
Dati said the clarification was necessary to debunk mischievous insinuations already being made in some quarters that the "authority's recent ban on illegal currency transactions at our airports is calculated to marginalise some sections of the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. The authority's action is a pre-emptive security measure designed to forestall more dangerous security breaches at the airports, in view of the current security situation in the country."
Meanwhile, the agency has apologised for the power outage yesterday at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) at the Lagos airport, which affected early morning operations and caused inconveniences to passengers.
FAAN explained that its engineers detected a problem at the main distribution panel that supplies power to the terminal and promptly took precaution to shut down power supply so as to avoid danger to the terminal and prevent damage.
"Temporary emergency power was consequently provided through a by-pass to the system to allow for basic passenger processing, including check-in, baggage conveyance and security screening. However, the emergency power could not carry the air-conditioning system resulting in considerable inconvenience to passengers through most of the day," FAAN said.