The Managing Director/CEO of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Saleh Dunoma, has opened up on the true state of security scanner at various Nigerian local and international airports, saying they are far away from latest technologies currently available at other airports across the world.
In an interview, he said “There have been reports that the scanning machines we have in some of the airports are not up to date and that they are not able to detect persons carrying illegal drugs. At present, we have various types of screening machines and equipment at our airports. The ones we have are not really the latest if I am speaking in terms of what is happening globally. So, I will quickly add that we are planning to buy the type of equipment that can check almost everything”.
“Recently, I went to Qatar where they were displaying some scanning machines. There are scanning machines now that would tell you the atomic number of anything. So, it can detect almost everything. We don’t have these machines now. But, what we have currently is a combination of scanning machines and hand held scanners, which are also detecting narcotics. So, the combination of that can help security men detect whatever they want to detect. Normally, the screening machines tell you they suspect something in a luggage.
According to him, “It is, however, left for the security personnel on ground to carry out further examination and analysis using the machines or focus on the area detected by the machines and if not satisfied, bring out the luggage or bag and check it manually. So, it is a combination of technology. But I can assure you that this would change for something that is more sophisticated and more efficient. Very soon, we will get these equipment at our airports”.
On perimeter security, FAAN averred that CCTV projects are going on in some airports to tame illegal incursion of people and cows.
He said “As we speak, we have commenced a project at Lagos and Abuja airports to make sure we cover all the restricted areas with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera coverage. These projects have reached their advanced stages. In Lagos, it is 80 per cent completed and in Abuja, it is about 70 per cent completed”.
“Once these projects in Lagos and Abuja airports are commissioned, our security personnel will sit up and monitor these restricted locations through the CCTV. But the CCTV project will not just be installed in Lagos and Abuja, but in the five international airports across the country. I believe this is going to help us a lot.
“But we are also buying mobile system technology, which has cameras on it and can see up to seven kilometres to detect moving or stationary objects. So, we will position it at our airports. The cameras that come with this technology are such that even at night, they will watch all the sensitive areas of the airport; the runway, apron and other restricted areas and capture what is going on there.
Dunoma added that “By the time we have all these technologies in place and we improve on the perimeter fences, the security in our airports will be watertight and nobody will be able to have access to the restricted areas. Those who try to breach our security will be easily caught”.
No doubt, the outdated scanning technology used at airports may form part of the fears of experts who have expressed concern that none of the 26 airports nationwide has met minimum standard of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) bordering on enhanced security.
They said though incidences of poaching and burglary on taxing aircraft are not new, it is, however, disturbing that the security architecture has not been reviewed, especially in light of general security issues in the country.
Aviation Security Consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), explained that ICAO’s standards and recommended practices, which guide air transport operations of all United Nations (UN) member countries, also stipulate the setting up of aviation and airport security in its Annex 17.
According to him, “The security fence must protect the operations, while perimetre fence is to show the extent of your land. The ICAO said if you have a perimetre fence, then you must upgrade it to security fence.
“One of the things you need to do to enhance security level is to ensure that public buildings and roads are six metres away from the perimetre fence. But how many of them have met these basic requirements?”
Currently, outside Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt that have perimetre fences, other airports are still largely protected from both animal and human intruders.
Ojikutu was quick to reveal that Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, which is the busiest, is now faced by threat of urbanisation and encroachment.