- … Airports, Seaports Under Threat – Stakeholders
After bandits suspected to be terrorists detonated explosives on the Kaduna-Abuja rail tracks severing the rail line from another somewhere between Dutse and Rijana, relevant authorities at the nation’s airports and seaports are yet to beef-up security in and around the national assets.
However, stakeholders have feared that the airports and Seaports may be the next soft target of the terrorists who had been terrorising the Northern part of the country.
Aviation stakeholders argued that the airports are always on the lists of targets for attack by terrorists as they ask who is watching over an asset which is of national importance.
Though, the South-West and South-South where the seaports are located are relatively peaceful but, they argued that government should watch over the national priced assets.
A visit to the Muritala Muhammed Airport Terminal 1(MMA1), the Zulu Terminal beside MMA1 as well as the Muritala Muhammed Airport, Terminal 2 (MMA2), showed that they are still porus as they still operate on security level one.
A visit to Lagos seaports -Apapa and Tin-Can Island over the weekend also showed that it’s still business as usual as security is still relaxed at the gateway to the two seaports.
The two seaports, however, contributed to the highest number of importation and exportation into the country as 65 percent of importation into the country come in through the ports.
The two major seaports serves as the gateway to the nation’s economy as they handle over 70 percent of Nigeria’s import cargoes. Apapa and Tin-Can Island Ports, also generates over 70 percent of revenue, collected for the government by its agents (Nigeria Customs Service(NCS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) etc.
Also, at both the airports, seaports, motorcyclists also known as Okada riders are seen in multitude operating unabated thereby creating security risk while touts also operate at the two terminals unhindered.
BUSINESSinsiderng recalls that the federal government had raised the alarm over the planned attack on some major airports across the federation.
The Ministry of Aviation, in a memo to airport security chiefs, stated that criminals were planning to strike gateways in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, and Kano.
The notice dated April 9, 2021, and signed by FAAN’s Deputy General Manager, Administration, and Logistics, S.M. Mamman, reads: “I am directed to convey a warning from the Ministry of Aviation regarding security threats by criminal elements against airports in Nigeria and to request the immediate enumeration of appropriate counter measures for the safety of airports/facilities under your purview.
“Airports in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Kano, Abuja, and Lagos are at the top of the list for which criminals are considering carrying out attacks. Both airports, however, are being notified and asked to operate at a higher threat level.”
No security checks at the entrance into the airports as the gates were widely opened for free entry and exit by members of the public.
Unlike the Abuja airport where security checks are being carried out by the Nigerian Airforce at the entrance of the airport, the Lagos airport is left porus for everyone to come in unhindered.
Speaking on the development, the General Secretary, Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Frances Akinjole said bandits are kidnapping their members on daily basis in Kaduna and Jos.
“Thank God you said you have gone around and see things for yourself. We are just fortunate that Lagos is just a little bit secured and this is not the effort of the authority concerned. For instance, see what is happening in Jos and Kaduna, some of our members are being kidnapped day in day out, some are escaping the attempt while some are falling for it and this is the area FAAN, as an entity is directing and focusing on to address.
“We have a tradition of not being proactive in this country and because Lagos State being in the South-West is a little bit save than the North-West and the Middle Belt area we felt nothing of such could happen in Lagos hence we left everywhere porus. “There are security lapses everywhere in Nigeria including all the airports, so i wouldn’t want to hold brief for FAAN but i want to believe that this is even beyond them as an authority. It is even beyond the ministry of aviation itself , federal government has its own challenges right now, how many personnel do we even have in AVSEC? Even the AVSEC, have they been allowed to carry arms? So how can they face insurgency, people coming with sophisticated weapons.
“Security issue is everybody’s concern in Nigeria. it not only the airport, however, the airport being the gateway should be protected from external aggression and be properly taking care of but is like the authority is not looking in that direction.”
“I don’t envy the federal government they have their own challenges personnel wise, but they know what to do in that direction and if they want to properly empower the AVSEC, they should do the right thing, give them quality training and provide equipment so that they can secure the airport but, may be until we start witnessing terrible occurrences they will now make it a frontline issue, they will give it that status it required.
“So, it is a challenge that has befallen the whole country but when it now comes to attacking the airport that means they are threatening the nucleus, the fabric of the nationhood itself as far as today is concerned, that is the safest means of transportation.”
Also, a clearing agent, Chukwu Nwaboshi said there are lot of unsecured black spot at the Tin-Can Island port complex that calls for urgent attention and clearance.
He said though, the NPA carried out a clearance process recently, but the miscreants have returned to where they are dislodged and setting up their shanties.
He, however, urged the federal government to make the clearance process continuously and to ensure profiling of miscreants so as to forestall any foreseeable attack on the national assets.
“Miscreants, Okada riders who are mainly foreigners operating around the port is a security risk. Who is incharge of the okada riders? Which group is regulating them? Incase of any security breach who will be held responsible?”
He continued, “We shouldn’t forget in a hurry what happened at Tin-Can Island Port during #endsars. If not for the military, hoodlums almost over-run the Tin-Can Island Port. But, my question is whether anything has changed since then. But, we shouldn’t wait till when the port is attacked before we do what is necessary,” he advised.
On his own, Retired Group-Capt. John Ojikutu, Secretary-General,Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), said there was need for a national security or intelligence information to be sent to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Ojikutu said that the information would be decimated to all operators, both public and private as airports ate not the only targets for terrorists.
He said, “There is need to secure aircraft parking lots, fuel depots, among others. My take, first, since all operators have approved security programmes by NCAA, all that is required is for the NCAA to use the security intelligence formations,” he said.
Ojikutu said this should be sent by the appropriate National Authority to update the National Civil Aviation Security Programmes (NCASP) and send to all the operators under its oversight as directives, not advisory.
“FAAN security restricted area circular should also be extended, car parks, fuel depots and the airports service road.
“The FAAN Authority should also improve surveillance on all access roads into the security controlled areas.
“There is need to increase patrols on both sides of the airport perimeter fence by (23 kilometres), and also reduce numbers of visitors and VIPs escorts in the Airports,” he said.
He stated further that tge government shouldn’t think airports cannot be attacked by insurgents saying they may not be too far from the nation’s priced asset.
“I hope we are not taking insurgencies around us as somethings too far from us or faraway from Aviation. Aviation is always in the list of targets for attacks by terrorists; who is watching over these targets of national importance?” He asked.
” the world has become a place where threats arise from multiple sources, most of which are difficult to anticipate, and many of which are impossible even to know today”–Ronald Rumsfeld (former US Defence Secretary at a briefing on September 10, 2001, the next day was September 11)