Nigerian airports lack adequate security facilities –Babatunde

Mr. Bayo Babatunde, is the Chairman of Scope Centre Limited, a security firm based in Lagos. In this interview with OLUSEGUN KOIKI, he speaks on how to enhance security at all the airports in the country. Excerpts:

The stowaway incident involving a 13- year-old boy, Daniel Ohikhena took the sector by surprise, as a security expert, who is a stowaway and what are the motivations for stowaways?

A stowaway is a person who secretly boards an aircraft, ship, train or even vehicle to travel without paying and without being detected. In some countries, it is a criminal act because the airside of an airport is a restricted area and only authorised people are allowed to go to the airside. How do you determine the authorised people? They carry the On-Duty Card, ODC. If you don’t have the ODC, you don’t go to some areas within the airport.

Majority of the situations that allow stowaways to happen are within the third world countries and some parts of South America and Asia where the perimeter security is not adequate. If the perimeter security is inadequate, not only will unauthorised persons have access to the airside, if there is a forceful breakage to enter the airside, there will also be technology to alert the system that an unauthorised activity is taking place within the perimeter.

On the motivation for stowaway, first, I will like to say it here that it is ignorance because the health risk of that height is high. The tyres come with a lot of heat. That heat alone can cause fatality. Secondly, at a particular height, there is little or no oxygen and therefore, the stowaway can die. Thirdly, don’t forget that at altitudethe temperature runs at minus zero degrees. That is why in history of stowaways between 1947 to 2012, there have been about 96 stowaway’s incidents in 85 flights. In some cases, they are more than one stowaway in a flight. Out of these numbers, 73 of them resulted in fatalities (deaths), only 23 survived.

The youngest ever recorded stowaway was nine years old boy and the motivation is usually the same the search for greener pastures. It’s usually not political; it’s the desire to leave an economic disadvantage environment to look for greener pastures elsewhere. There had been 9, 13, 17 even 30 years old stowaways in the world.

Globally, what measures are put in place to prevent stowaway incidents from happening?

Don’t forget that every country has what is regarded as basic aviation security standards that have been formulated by the government through the Civil Aviation Authority, CAA. Now, the standard covers specifically airport security, the demarcated areas of the airport, aircraft security, passengers, checkedin luggage, hold luggage, cargoes, mails and cabin and cockpit crews, the process of security equipment and standard aviation security screening equipment.

If you look at these one after the other, item two is a demarcated area of the airport, which is the area that is covered by the perimeter. There are three separate documents; the national civil aviation security programme, which is done in conjunction with the National Security Adviser, NSA. It covers the general programme for security of the airport in alignment with total national security programme. Secondly, you now have the airport, which covers the A-Z of what can happen as security breaches at the airport and what measures should be put in place so as to mitigate against those possibilities. The possibilities will vary from the landside, the terminal to the airside if you look at the access control to the airport. How do you ensure that passengers, meeters and greeters and all visitors to the airports, terrorists and others don’t have unfiltered access to the airport? Your access control programme will take care of that.

You also have the programme for terminal security, which includes confirmation of tickets, check-in and others. You must have a set of standardised programmes that would protect passengers and other airport users including those who run duty-free-shops and commercial organisations at the airports. Measures such as unidentified luggage, what do you do in such a situation? If there is a security alert, what do you do? That’s why in most airports, there is security training for non-security staff. This is necessary so that they will have basic knowledge of what to do when there is an emergency.

From there, you go to the access control to the airside from the terminal. Who is authorised to pass from the terminal to a restricted area? What are the processes? How do you authorize people, transit from the terminal to the airside? How do you determine who can go there? How do you allow tankers or food suppliers to the aircraft side? What are the procedures? There must be a process and they must under go some specific checks, which include underground checks of the vehicles, frisking, Improvised Explosive Device, IED detectors. How do you scan the food vendors who supply food to the airside? How do you ensure that they don’t carry narcotics, IED packed in the baggage? These are all procedures that the airport security covers.

There is also airline security programme, once you have passed through the check-in and all that, then the airlines take over. How do you ensure that your passenger has gone through all the necessary security checks because there could be some elements of complicity if passengers are ferried to sabotage the security process? The airline too must have its own security programme.

If the airport security system has worked, the airline security too has worked, then, we can look at perimeter security as lapses, the access control and airline security as lapses.

What happened with Daniel is a major security breach. Today, it’s a little boy without any terrorist motive, but had it been he was used as a courier, it will be a different story entirely. We must first of all accept that there was a complete breach of security. Security has failed. So, how do we ensure that it does not happen again?

In some countries today, we have the electronic perimeter fences, which trigger off once there is a penetration. In this case, the young boy was seen by different levels of airport operatives and nobody took any action.

With what happened now, don’t you think if there was a Closed Circuit Television cameras in operations at the airport, it would have detected the boy?

I’m not sure if they have the CCTV cameras at Benin Airport. If there was a CCTV camera, the guy in the control room would have seen the boy and informed the Aviation Security, AVSEC. Again, you want to ask yourself if the Benin Airport has patrol vehicles that patrol the perimeter especially during the period of aircraft operations. Benin Airport is a visual flight airport, so, between 7am and 7pm, there must be regular perimeter patrol within the airport, but do they have vehicles? Do we have CCTV cameras? Is the perimeter fully covered? Are the operatives trained?

One of the issues that arise most of the time is the issue of training. Security personnel are supposed to be trained every six months, and I know in this clime, that may be a tall order. But I know it can still be done once in a year. You will find out that most of these people are not trained. Then, there are some basic requirements like good sight. You must not be colour blind as a security operative. Then, do we do background checks for security personnel? If we don’t do it, then, we’ve compromised from the beginning.

Sir, do you suspect any foul play in this incident?

I don’t suspect any foul play at all. There have been incidences of nine years old boys in this stowaway business. This young boy watches a lot of movies and in all the cases I’ve gone through, the motivation is the same; they want to leave from one country to the other. What could have happened is that the boy is familiar with the airport environment and knows the lapses. He has seen those lapses.

You talked about prevention measures in the globe, let us narrow it to Nigeria, in our environment, how do we prevent this from recurring again?

The airport is not first a building, but a facility that is guided by measures and standards. So, I expect that all our airports should have basic standard facilities. You can’t have an airport without perimeter fencing. It’s an invitation to accident and it’s an indictment on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA allowing flight operations into such an airport without perimeter fencing because apart from stowaways, we once had a situation of cows in Port Harcourt Airport in 2005 and others like that. It happened because there is no perimeter fencing.

Two, there are technologies for perimeter security now. Such technologies raise alert once there is a breach of the perimeter security and it’s commonly in used now in developed airports all over the world.

The security of airport operations is a national obligation, it’s not an option. Every nation that has airports has obligations to protect the passengers and the assets at the airports. How they do it is a matter that is contained in your approved national airport security programme. The issue of compliance rests squarely wit the CAA. It also means that CAA must exercise its powers and ensure compliance because they have oversight responsibility to ensure that the security programme is complied with to the letter. The compliance would come both from the airport and the airlines.

The airlines will ensure that the airline security programme is well-implemented while the airport will ensure the same. It’s the effectiveness of the airport and the airline that guarantee security.

Why then the buck passing between FAAN and Airk Air managements?

My own take on this matter is that it goes beyond buck passing because it shows on both sides that there was a security breach. The young boy beat the airport security programme and got to the airside. Did he get an ODC to get to the airside? How did he enter the wheel well and the airline security did not pick him up? Clearly from both parties, they failed. But I want to believe that the airline had taken action by informing the security about breached noticed and it’s left for the airport managers to have taken care of that. We are only lucky that there was no fatality because if he was used as a courier, he would just blow down the plane and we won’t even know the cause of the crash. I will blame both systems, but I will situate it more on airport security because in the first instance, the access control failed.

You mentioned some new technologies being used in other developed countries within their airports; do you think FAAN has the financial wherewithal to put all those things in place considering the cost?

The security of any airport according to the provision of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO Annex 17 is very clear that every nation that is a signatory to that ICAO document must provide the wherewithal to ensure safety of international aviation. So, it is the responsibility of the government to provide safety because airport is like anybody and you have to protect your border and it has a diplomatic status, too. So, anything that happens to the airport is passed around the world within one minute.

We know now that the responsibility is so huge that Federal Government alone can not carry it. That is why we have Public-Private Participation, PPP. Then, governments authorise airports to charge for security because the cost of providing security now is very high. Some of the airports around the world charge a percentage for security because we need a lot of technologies like scanners, dual view scanners and IED detectors, which are very expensive equipment ant eh technology is evolving.

Every time, you need to upgrade these equipment and so, most governments are looking for ways to augment by allowing users to pay a little amount of money for security services provided by the airport managers. I think, this is the way to go in Nigeria.

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