…as stakeholders relieve ‘underwear bomber’ incident
Posted by Sade Williams
Dr. Harold Demuren, the former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Hamisu Yadudu, managing director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other stakeholders on Thursday, called for a collaborative approach towards tacking security challenge at airports and by extension, Nigeria.
This is just as the stakeholders relived the incident of the attempted bombing of a United States aircraft by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian underwear bomber,which led to improved security at airports.
They spoke at the Second 2022 Breakfast Business Meeting organised by Aviation Round Table (ART) in Lagos on with the theme: ‘Perspective in Multi-Layer Aviation Security System and Passenger Facilitation’.
Demuren said it was the collaborative efforts of aviation agencies and security agencies at airports that assisted the NCAA under his watch provide information that extricated Nigeria from complicity in the attempted bombing of a United States aircraft by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian underwear bomber.
The former NCAA DG, who said the Christmas day incident was the saddest day of his life as the then helmsman in the regulatory authority, stressed the need for synergy among all security agencies in a bid to prevent related occurrence.
In his keynote speech, Demure said that his attention was drawn to the December 25, 2009 incident by Mr. Babatunde Omotoba who was the Minister of Aviation from December 17, 2008 till March 2010.
While also stressing the bed for advanced technology, Omotoba had woken him up in the middle of the night to break the incident to him, but noted that the installation of modern equipment at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, revealed the entire activities of Abdulmutallab at the airport to the security team.
He explained that the Closed Circuit Television Camera (CCTV) footage provided by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at the airport, exornorated Nigeria from the heinous crime.
Demuren said that Nigeria was able to provide all the necessary documents as requested by the US, which led to the removal of Nigeria among the blacklisted countries by the US.
He, however, said that the singular act led to improved security at all the nation’s airports, especially the international aerodromes, stressing that the security layers in Nigeria was increased from seven to 20 by the US.
He regretted that prior to the incident, the father of Abdulmutallab had informed the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) of the radicalisation of his son, but said rather for such information to be shared among the various security agencies, the secutrity outfit refused to act.
He said: “Up to the 1980s, there was no major aviation security challenges in Africa. Then came the 1993 Nigerian Airways Hijack (Lagos-Abuja Flight, diverted to Niamey, Niger Republic). After this was the 9/11 attack in the US, which changed the face of aviation security in the world. Layers upon layers of security were introduced in the US.
“In Nigeria, we had the Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab 2010 failed bomb attempt on KLM/NorthWest Airline. After this incident, NCAA ordered for enhanced multi-layered security measures at our airports, including body scanners.
“The Abdulmutallab incident was the saddest day of my life as the DG NCAA. I was woken up in the middle of the night by the Minister of Aviation who told me to go and watch the news. It was all over the news that a Nigerian wanted to kill Americans, but the CCTV footage saved us. When we were asked to provide our evidence, we were able to show it to US and what we had then, some big aviation countries didn’t have them.
“At this point, I’ll like to appreciate the contribution of the various agencies at the airport, particularly FAAN for providing the CCTV footage. The Nigerian Immigration Service that provided detailed entry and exit from the airport and the MAVIS for providing the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) information and others. These were parts of the information NCAA used to remove Nigeria’s name from the ‘US Country of Interest Watchlist.
“Security is a major issue in Nigeria Government is doing all it can, but we still have a lot of room for improvement, but if we are not safe on the streets, on the roads, in the church, in the mosque or in the schools, it becomes a challenge and the idea is to make sure we resolve the issue and work with government, government cannot do it alone, security is everybody’s business, any information you can give is very important, we also talk of money, it costs a lot of money, you have to make sure you have money, a lot of funds and direct them to appropriate places.
“FAAN is the manager here, they are in charge of the airports but they need money and I believe that if they begin to work on this, it can be tamed and deter these people to come to the planes. Nobody would want to fly if they know that that aircraft can be hijacked or there can be terrorists attacks.
“We need technology, training, advanced technology , they have time to plan, they have money, we have to be above them and they are ready to die, we don’t want to die and don’t have time, training is important, we now look at advanced technology but it costs money, we have to be above them.”, he said.
Also speaking, FAAN MD, Captain Hamish Yadudu said ‘everybody needs to ensure security at a airports, if we want to instill confidence in passengers, we have to work together to achieve this, we don’t have to scare them away, there is need for us to constantly and deliberately protect the industry, Nigeria aviation is doing well, there is high level of confidence in passengers’.
Yadudu noted that FAAN is accessible and ready to attend to enquiries and give information when necessary.
Earlier, Dr. Gabriel Olowo, the President, ART, said that in view of the current security deterioration and challenges in Nigeria on farmlands, religious places, road and rail transportation, it was pertinent for the group to continue to discuss the security situation in the industry.
Olowo lamented that the various communiqués arising from the past breakfast meetings of ART were not implemented by the government, but insisted that would daunt the body from continuing to propagate safety and security in the sector.
Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu (retd) in his paper ‘Civil Aviation Security Defence Layers and Airport Passengers’ Facilitation,’ also said that the Abdulmutallab incident led to increased security apparatus in the industry in Nigeria.
He, however, decried the multiple security desks in the sector, stressing that it was discouraging travellers and investors into the country.
He emphasised that there were some lapses in the profiling of the Abdulmutallab by the various bodies from the Department of State Security (DSS) immigration, Aviation Security (AVSEC) and even the airlines.
Also, Mr. Ayo Obilana, in his paper titled: ‘Addressing the Challenges of Passenger Facilitation Process in the Aviation Security Regime,’ explained that in the US, there are only five security checkpoints; three in arrival and two at departure.
But, in Nigeria, he said there are no fewer than 20 security checks at arrival and departure and described the security system in the country as analog operations.
“This for me is known as analog operations known as bank cheque book mentality,” he said.