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Curbing Insecurity At Nigeria’s Airports

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The renewed threat to global security through explosives has necessitated the need for aviation authorities to reinforce security measures around the Nigerian airports. As part of the measures, Nigeria signed an agreement with the United States on deployment of Air Marshals in US-Bound flights for enhanced security.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren signed on behalf of Nigeria while John Halinski, Assistant Administrator, Office of Global Strategies, Transport Security Administration (TSA) signed for the United States of America.

According to Demuren, it will give Nigeria the opportunity to have its aviation security officials trained on how to handle threat to the aircraft. He explained that Nigeria and the US have to work together to improve security on board the aircraft and to stop terror, since the Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab incident in 2009.

America will help us train our people for free and improve measues through aviation security. This is because no country is inmune, he said, adding. “it will help us to share safety and security information. All the American airlines need to do is to get the permission of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority for the Marshals to do their work, while the aircraft is flying in and out of our airspace”.

In fact, this is a concerted effort to improve aviation security. It has become necessary for Nigeria to take another step towards beefing up security at our airports and aircraft to take the aviation industry to the next level. This agreement will involve the deployment of in-fight security officers/Air Marshals.

Both countries have been working on this agreement signed at the TSA Headquarters, Arlington, Virginia, US, in the presence of Nigeria’s Ambassador to US, Professor Adefuye, for some years now, before it was signed last weekend.

The agreement is part of measures by the American government to improve safety and security on the trans-atlantic routes because of the latest threat to air safety in the wake of terrorist attacks. Air Marshals work undercover to prevent or interfere with criminal acts which may occur on board an aircraft or in an airport.

The Air Marshal programme first started in the United States in 1968 after a few international hijackings on airplanes. The programme was small and most marshals were used on international flights, which were considered at risk for hijacking. When airports across the world began using metal detectors to screen passengers, the air Marshals were reduced following terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, the programme was expanded. The programme is run by the Transport Security Administration (TSA).

Part of why the Marshals work undercover is to deter criminals as marshals observe passengers at the airport before departure and onboard the aircraft.

Their main role is to keep passengers and crew safe from terrorist activity and other types of criminal behaviour.

Most Marshals have experience in law enforcement, such as working as a Police Officer but marshals, who do not have law enforcement experience but have a degree in criminal justice, may be considered for a position depending on the number of job openings.The rising trend of terrorist activities in Nigeria prompted the signing into law the Terrorism (Prevention) Bill 2011 and it was passed by the just-concluded 6th National Assembly. Under the law, it is an offence to finance terrorism. The Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 establishes measures for the prevention, prohibition and combating of acts of terrorism and the financing of terrorism.

The Act also provides for the effective implementation of the convention on the prevention and combating of terrorism as well as the convention on the suppression of the financing of terrorism and prescribes penalties for the violation of its provisions.

The Federal Government should pay greater attention to security in the nation’s airports because they are gateways and play key roles in the nation’s economy. Those who invest in the aviation sector pay huge revenue to the Federal Government or federation account in form of duties, taxation and import charges. The President, Goodluck Jonathan should take the issue of airport security and airspace more seriously as the sector is seen as one of the largest revenue sources after oil and gas industry.

Insecurity at the airports could scare investors from the country and hamper airport operations taking into account the spate of terrorism and bombings in some parts of the country. Large investment opportunities capable of determining the nation’s economy position are available in the airports and this speaks volumes about the strategic position the aviation industry occupies in investment trade, such that a significant part of export and import are done through the sector.

Nigeria is a country whose economic activities depend solely on the exportation and importation of finished products and raw materials including crude oil as well as refined petroleum products. All these contribute to the volume of import and export in the country and underscores how lucrative investments in the country’s airport business is. But the poor state of our airports, mostly the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in terms of access road, users roads, equipment, infrastructure and security, is seen as being below standard. Within last year and now, the airport has recorded several cases of accident that claimed lives.

Access roads to and within the airports and insecurity as well as lack of perimeter fence are some of the problems confronting the nation’s airports, which need to be addressed by the Federal Government if the country intends to sustain is Category One status and achieve growth in the sector. The high level of insecurity in the nation’s airports has become so glaring that users are no longer safe. The government should wake up to its responsibilities.

The Federal Government should make enough budgetary provision for the agencies in-charge of the airports such as the FAAN, NCAA, NAMA and others to effectively develop the airports and guide the airspace and aircraft flying Nigerian and international routes. This is necessary to save one of the nation’s big sources of revenue. The aviation industry has a very huge revenue potential and employment generation and the country can not afford to lose it. The high level of insecurity in the sector has made importation and exportation a very risky business so it has become imperative for the Federal Government to provide the needed equipment for bomb detection and others around the airports, which enable security agents to mount surveillance on the airports and their surrounding environments.

Airports are very crucial gateways that connect a country with other international communities and if left in a very bad shape and exposed the activities of terrorists and other criminal acts, foreigners would not like to do business in our country for fear of insecurity.

Therefore, to protect the image of the country in the global market and view, the Federal Government should provide the needed equipment to the concerned agencies to do their security jobs effectively.

Nigerians should make security-consciousness their cardinal principle and a way of life. FAAN and other agencies should re-appreaise the existing strategies on raising awareness on potential security threats and re-orientate the public through the media.

The recent security challenges in some parts of the country have signaled the need for increased awareness at our airports and other public places. There have been recent unrest, insecurity, flashes of threats and violence in some parts of the country due to inter and intra political party conflicts, socio-economic agitations, ethno-religious crises, organized rebellion and outright criminality.

The state of insecurity and challenging threats necessitates a renewed strategy in public awareness in the management of security and civic responsibilities. The idea of sharing information will blossom so the bottom-line is for everybody to log on to the idea always by being security-conscious. FAAN and NCAA as NAMA, should work towards getting passengers and other airport users to adopt to changing intelligence needs, which are challenging due to the existing structure that need the most security attention.

There is need to fashion out a programme of action considering the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria to achieve the goals of our airports as well as strengthen national security.

The anti-terrorism law should be seriously enforced, irrespective of who is involved just as the security scope, methodology and effectiveness of security officers and their functions should be redefined.

Security agents at the airports should be vigilant to cope with the serious security challenge and to address them. The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at the nation’s airports is a potent means of curbing insecurity, even in the airplanes.

Shedie Okpara

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Aviation

COVID-19: Arik Airline Sacks 300 Staff

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At least 300 staff of Arik Air have been relieved of their appointments by the airline’s management.

This was announced in a statement by the airline on Friday.
It blamed the sacking on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The press statement was titled, “Arik Air management declares 300 staff redundant”.
The company explained that a redundancy package would be provided for the affected workers with the help of the aviation unions.
The statement read in part, “Arising from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the constrained ability of the airline to complete heavy maintenance activities and return its planes to operations, stunted revenues against increasing operational costs, the management of Arik Air (In Receivership) has declared 300 staff members redundant to its current level of operations.
“The leadership of the impacted unions has been contacted to negotiate a redundancy package for the affected staff.”
The airline added that over 50 per cent of its workforce of over 1,600 staff have been on furlough in the past six months.
In a separate statement also forwarded to our correspondent by its Public Relations and Communications Manager, Banji Ola, the airline apologised to passengers whose travel plans were disrupted by the protest carried out by the National Union of Air Transport Employees on December 3, 2020.
The picketing disrupted operations in Lagos and prevented the airline from processing passengers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal 1 and 2.

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S’East Leaders Laud FG Over EndSARS

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South-East leaders on Saturday, lauded the Federal Government on the matured and responsive manner it handled all issues relating to the EndSARS protest and agitation.
The leaders of the zone, which included Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members as well as traditional, religious and youth leaders, gave the commendation in a communiqué issued after their meeting with a Presidential delegation in Enugu.
The presidential delegation was led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who is the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We thank President Buhari for the speed and restraint with which he handled the EndSARS protest, which has engendered peace throughout the country, especially the South-East.
“We, therefore, request the President to look into demands of various groups and youths with a view to resolving them,’’ the statement, which was read by the Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, Governor Dave Umehi, said.
It also called for joint operation by security agencies and local vigilant groups into all forests in the zone to flush out criminals and killer herdsmen with AK47 rifles.
“But we pledge our commitment to continuous coexistence with peaceful herdsmen who have been living peacefully with us.
“We stand for an indivisible and united Nigeria, built on love, fairness, equity and justice. We believe that under this platform – NIGERIA; we are bigger and stronger,’’ it said.
It also called on the Federal Government to continue its support and diplomatic push for the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be elected as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The statement thanked the Federal Government for the timely interventions in Akanu Ibiam International Airport rehabilitation as well as intervention in road infrastructures in the zone.
“We are grateful for the attention given to the second Niger Bridge and completion and inauguration of the Zik’s mausoleum.
“However, we urge the Federal Government to give attention to the completion of the current road projects within the zone,’’ it said.
The statement said that the states in the zone will provide money for the compensation for those affected by the EndSARS protest, help to rebuild police stations and their logistics; while engaging the youths constantly to forestall any violent development in the zone.
“We have plans to set up various empowerment programmes to gainfully engage the youths. The governors also plan to mainstream the youths in their governance to give them a sense of belonging.

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Aviation

Minister Hails Meeting With S’East Leaders

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described as “extremely fruitful” the meeting which a presidential team had with leaders and stakeholders of the South-East.
“The meeting of the presidential delegation with South-East leaders was very useful,’’ Mohammed told journalists on Sunday in Enugu.
The delegation, led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, met for more than eight hours in Enugu with selected South-East leaders.
Mohammed said that it was quite instructive that all the groups which took part in the meeting believed in the unity and oneness of the country, pointing out that they clearly spelt out this in their presentations.
“We listened clearly and carefully to all the positions and demands and we are going back to report directly to President Buhari,’’ the minister said.
He noted that the Federal Government had been spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country, simultaneously and equitably.
“We want the South-East people to be confident that the Federal Government is spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country equitably and will never marginalise any zone in the ongoing development and infrastructure agenda.
“This is what I want to assure Nigerians living in the South-East,’’ Mohammed noted.
According to the minister, when the team gets back to Abuja it will see what can be done immediately concerning some of the positions and demands made by the South-East leaders.
The presidential delegation met with South-East governors, statesmen, elders, religious and traditional leaders, as well as market women and youth leaders.

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