Nigeria: Protecting Airports Against Terrorists' Attack

16 April 2021

There have been information about plans by terrorists and bandits to extend the insecurity which has pervaded the country to the airports, but they have so far failed to access the facilities. Chinedu Eze writes that more efforts should be made to further secure the airports

On Monday airport security report was made public, which indicated that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) security operatives, AVSEC received alert from the Ministry of Aviation of planned attack on some airports in the country by criminal elements.

These included the airports located in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Abuja and Lagos.

The security alert signed by AVSEC official stated, "I am directed to convey an alert from the Ministry of Aviation regarding security threats by criminal elements against airports in Nigeria and to request for the immediate enumeration of necessary countermeasures for the protection of airports/facilities under your purview.

"Specifically, the airports top on the list for which criminals are considering carrying out attacks include those in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Abuja, and Lagos amongst others. However, all airports are hereby alerted and requested to operate at a heightened threat level."

The airport chiefs have been directed to "submit a list of existing and additional countermeasures to address the threats, along with their cost implications where applicable.

"Also, they are expected to urgently convene an emergency meeting of airport security committees "to review the status of airport security, jointly recommend appropriate measures and share responsibility for effective implementation", the report disclosed.

Industry insiders said maybe the criminal elements were emboldened by their successful kidnap of some aviation workers in the airport living quarters located a distance away from the airports.

In early March the living quarters at the Kaduna airport was attacked by gunmen who abducted some families and also in late March similar incident happened in Jos airport quarters. Further efforts were made again in Kaduna but security operatives forestalled it.

Reinforcing Security

THISDAY learnt that in response to these two incidents, the federal government reinforced security at the two airports; that when the criminals came again in Kaduna for similar attacks and kidnap, they were not only stopped but the military which now took charge to protect the airports forced them to flee. Since then, there have been multilayered security approach to protect all the airports in the country, as the federal government and FAAN authorities deploy more security operatives to the airports.

FAAN said it is poised to prevent any action that could compromise security at any of the nation's airports, including insider threat as it collaborates with the Nigerian police, Air Force and the Army.

Security Measures

Security experts have over the years spoken about how to fortify the airports, from security fencing to perimeter fencing and how to monitor every part of the airport through the installation of CCTV.

THISDAY learnt that in Lagos FAAN had installed CCTV even along the taxiway to monitor possible movement during that time reports became rife that aircraft on holding point at the runway was being robbed. Since them there have not been any of such reports.

FAAN also deployed patrol vans at the Lagos airport, which escort both aircraft that are taking off and those that have landed through the taxiway. There is also 24 hours patrol of the airside by security operatives at the Lagos airport. But informed sources told THISDAY that this security protocol is not efficiently deployed at other airports, so with the current threats, the agency must have to fortify security at every airport in the country.

The security expert and CEO of Centurion Securities Limited, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) said FAAN should review its security apparatus in the face of homegrown terrorism.

"Let me make recommendations to what could become threats to the airport security in the midst of homegrown terrorism. FAAN should create or provide three levels of parking areas around the local and international terminals.

"One for government and diplomatic corps and give it to the government airport protocols oversight by your AVSEC. All vehicles parking at the allocated point must carry government recognised numbers.

"No other vehicle, no matter the official, if not with government recognised or identified number should be allowed to park at the allocated point," he said.

Ojikutu also recommended that only government or diplomatic registered vehicles should be allowed in the parking area to ensure their security and congestion.

"Secondly, the very important personalities and corporate organisations like banks, oil companies, multinational and international companies; a located area should attract parking fees of N500/ per hour.

"These must register with the FAAN Commercial, pay approved rates monthly, quarterly, annually or pay the hourly rate. The corporate vehicles must be registered with FAAN and any change of the registered vehicle must be brought to the knowledge of the appropriate FAAN authority," he said.

Ojikutu also recommended that a national security or intelligence estimates should be sent to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to circulate to all operators both public and private.

"Airports are not the only targets for terrorists to attack; parking aircraft, fuel depots, etc. They require similar directives from the responsible aviation security authority. My take; first, since all operators have approved security programmes by the NCAA, all that is required is for the NCAA to use the security intelligence estimates which should be sent to it by the appropriate national authority to update the National Civil Aviation Security Programmes (NCASP) and send it down to all the operators under its oversight as directives not advisory," the security expert said.

He said there should be closer monitoring and restriction of movement in such areas as the car parks, fuel depots and airport service roads at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

These include the roads connecting the terminals. There should also be improvement in surveillance on all access into the airport security controlled areas, increased patrols on both sides of the airport perimeter fence, which is about 23 kilometers, reduction in the number of visitors, those who use the eateries and sight seers and VIP escorts must be monitored.

In addition to all these, FAAN must close the Beesam Access and exit route road into MMIA transit access," Ojikutu recommended.

New Technologies

Security expert and Chairman of Scope Centre Limited, Bayo Babatunde once told THISDAY that there are new security threats in air transport that could be combated with advanced technology system and urged the federal government to ensure that airports are protected with these modern security system.

"The threats to international aviation continue to evolve as the perpetrators devise methods to contravene procedures and improved counter measure technologies. It is a case of both parties not resting on their oars.

"While the global governing body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) continues its global oversights and regulations through the ICAO Annex 17, which details the standards and recommended procedures for members contracting bodies, the local regulatory Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for domesticating the international rules in line with the National Security Program through the National Aviation Security Program / standards which must adopt the ICAO Standards as minimum standards.

"In all of these, the safety and continued security of international aviation is the sole objective. It is also important to note here that International Aviation is global and the same standards are applicable all over the world."

Babatunde warned that there are no local standards, so in Nigeria, the Nigerian NCAA has over the years responded to the global security threats, working with the ICAO and the National Security Office to develop procedures for enhancing the security procedures and technological requirements.

He noted that as a critical element of the NCAA, post 911 is the creation of the AVSEC department that is specifically designated for the direct oversights and monitoring/ regulations.

This, he said, has enhanced the professional practice of AVSEC at the various Nigerian airports, adding that over the last decades, the evolution of threats has been rapid and the authorities have worked very hard to ensure unbroken traveling experience.

"Steps have been taken to improve access controls without sacrificing quality of facilitations and security. A critical element is the continued advancement of science and technology in airport scanners. Now, there are proficient technologies to detect all levels of threats, from drugs and explosives concealed on the body, improved scanners for detecting metals, IEDs and narcotics in hand held and checked in luggage," Babatunde said.

Insider Threat

Many industry analysts have pointed out that the most dangerous security breach is the one caused by insider threat, which is a malicious threat to an organisation that comes from people within the organisation, such as employees, former employees, contractors or business associates.

In the aviation industry, this could come from agencies, airlines, handling companies whose personnel access the restricted and sensitive areas of the airport.

They noted that the reason why it is recommended that that there should be regular profiling of staff, especially the personnel of AVSEC is to ensure that one or two of the workers have not compromised the security protocol and aligned with terrorists and other criminal elects to breach safety at the airports.

The Chief Operating Officer of TAL Helicopters, Femi Adeniji in his contribution said that security breach starts from stopping the issuance of ODC (On duty Cards) to touts and rental car drivers and so-called "Chairman."

"Our airports are the only airports where rental cars organize themselves and takeover premium parking lots instead of FAAN charging for parking if close to the terminal at premium.

"You drive to the airport with the mind of picking up your passengers to find out that you can only park a distant of the airport (Lagos, Abuja) but rental car park at the terminals.

"Where is the security if the parking lot is manned and controlled by rental cars, while the FAAN security walks around embarrassing and calling for tow trucks for citizens picking up passengers," he queried.

In other words, touts and others could constitute insider threat because they have access to the sensitive areas of the airport but at the same time they do not have the training, the commitment and the discipline needed to stir in them the desire to protect national assets and protect human lives.

Porous Airports

Industry observers have also excoriated what has become a culture at the airport whereby security operatives; Immigration and Customs officials solicit for money from the passengers. Recently the General Overseer, Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG). Enoch Adeboye reported to have condemned that attitude when airport officials solicited money from him when he passed through the airport.

FAAN had recently issued a circular directed at passengers to expose any FAAN official who solicit for money from them but critics have said that such circulars have been there before but there is lack of enforcement, which indicated that the agency might not be seriously committed to eradicating such obnoxious behaviour, which tend to tarnish the image of the country abroad.

The industry security expert also reiterated the need to regularly profile the AVSEC personnel in FAAN and other security operatives that collaborate with the agency to provide security at the airports. He said that this was very necessary because insider threat weakens the security infrastructure of the airport.

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