A warning has been issued by security experts in the aviation industry saying that terror attacks were imminent at airports around the country. The warning came yesterday, December 1, following the news of another stowaway on Arik Air aircraft, an occurrence which according to the experts, suggests that attacks might just be closer than the authorities were aware of.
The lifeless body of the stowaway was on Wednesday found in the main wheel well of one of the Arik Air’s A330-200 aircraft at the Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.
The stakeholders expressed their concern during a breakfast meeting of the Aviation Safety Round Table (ASRT), a think-tank group of the sector, calling for an immediate review of the aviation security programmes at the airports and operating airlines, if the country must avert a likely attack.
An aviation security consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), observed that the latest stowaway case was the second time Arik was being targeted within three days after some armed robbers told police in Port Harcourt, Rivers state that they were headed for an Arik plane when they were apprehended in a shootout.
He also cited a recent incident where a domestic airline passenger plane could not land because some herdsmen, said to be in possession of sophisticated ammunition, were grazing their cattle around the runway. The incidents Ojikutu said, are proofs that terrorists, including Boko Haram insurgents, Fulani herdsmen and Nigeria Delta militants were fast becoming aware of how porous the nation’s airports were, and exploring the openings.
The aviation security consultant observed that it was a security risk that most of the airports have no perimeter fences and others that are fenced already have private homes using the fence as a part of their buildings, adding that non-payment of the salaries as well as the inability of security operatives to tell which of the agencies is in charge of coordinating security, was an insiders’ threat.
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Ojikutu said further:
“For all of these issues, I will hold the NCAA responsible. When the case of stowaway happened in Benin, I asked them ‘how did it happen without an insider’s connivance?’ The perimeter fences are porous. The MMIA has one that is not security-enhanced. That is why we have all these cases of stowaways.
“What I expect NCAA to immediately do is to review all the security programmes of these airports, and of Arik in particular. We are talking of the lives of Nigerians here being put at risk and government of Nigeria has a responsibility to protect them.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said it is doing its possible best to see to it that security standards are duly implemented at the airports.
In a similar development, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja will be shut down temporarily for rehabilitation to begin at the airport’s runway soon. The federal government has approved about N1 billion for the project, while the Kaduna airport has been designated as an alternative to Abuja airport while the repairs last.