Aviation security officers to bear arms soon, says Sirika

Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of State, Aviation

Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of State, Aviation

…picks holes in siting of new terminals in Lagos, Abuja
By Sade Williams
The Federal government has said that plans are underway to transform the Aviation Security (AVSEC) of FAAN into something akin to the United States Transport Security Administration (TSA) as the approval has been given for that.
Hadi Sirika, Minister of State, Aviation, who disclosed this at the presentation of Aviation Road Map to stakeholders in Lagos on Saturday, said the officers will begin to carry guns, teargas, dogs and other apparatus in a bid to effectively carry out their functions at airports.
“Our aviation security is laughable and we now have approval to reposition the AVSEC to take the shape of the TSA of the USA, fully-kitted, well-trained, well-educated with firearms. We have the approval and have gone to the Ministry of Interior to enquire what is needed, we are engaging them in an inter-ministerial capacity and when we iron it all out, you will see the changes”, he said.
Speaking on the ongoing restructuring at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), he said the excersic is far from over, adding that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) are next.
Already, government has started redeploying, re-assigning, demoting and even terminating appointments of staff in what it calls improper placement of staff at these agencies especially in FAAN where the workers have felt the full positive impact of the restructuring.
According to Sirika, the restructuring became imperative because of the top-heaviness in these agencies with a combined total of 88 general managers on grade level 17 and above on the payroll especially those unqualified as.
He said that government was handling the restructuring in phases and this will go around leaving a leaner and more effective agency instead of the over-bloated workforce that has provided little or no impact in the system.
Sirika, also while fielding questions at the forum, clarified issues on the planned concession and the Chinese funded terminal which he said had no effect on each other.
He stated that the Chinese funded terminal was not a concession or Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) but a loan, stating that both were not contradicting the same purpose.
“The Chinese terminals are not BOTs. It was a loan of which the Chinese provided $500million and Nigeria provided $100million counterpart funding. Even at that the biggest of those terminals will be doing 1.5million passengers annually but what we are looking at is different and larger.
“The terminals were done,’kudos to the originators’ to the best of their thinking, but the one in Abuja, we will have to move it as it is blocking the control tower and the fire service. But we already are building and we have to put it to use. The same story in Lagos too.”
He said government after this faux pas has been committed would spend nothing less than $30million dollars to move the fire service and another $40million to move the control tower and this is not economical.
He added further that the planned concession if done transparently, real and genuinely with stakeholders’ buy-in will work and that as a minister he has an open door policy and was willing to trade ideas to improve the plans and make it better.
He further went on to declare that if anyone takes advantage of the concession for personal gain that he should be held responsible as the bulk lies on his table.
On why there are still over 68 court cases on previous concessions, Sirika said those concessions were shrouded in secrecy, saying there bound to fail.
“This current airport concession is a different one, we went to Bureau of Public Enterprises, we are engaging stakeholders and unions, already we have received expressions of interest and we will in the next two weeks, make public the transaction advisers, it is transparent, we will not lay back. You can hold me responsible if it is not transparent at the end of the process”, he added.
Sirika, who admitted that the airline business is a very tough one, where one has to be precise and accurate, noted that there are no good airline managers in the sector, attributing this to incessant collapse of airlines.
He said the planned Aviation University in conjunction with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, in Nigeria will deliver good managers to the sector.
He however regretted the way the N200 billion bail out to airlines in 2012 was spent, adding that there may not be such bail out again as many prefer to divert the funds for personal use.

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