Of Kaduna Airport Security Breach and Nigeria’s

aviation - April 1, 2022

For the second time in two years there were security breaches around the Kaduna airport despite being in the centre of Nigerian security forces. Chinedu Eze writes that the breach may call for a review of Nigeria’s safety rating by international aviation agencies.

In march 2021 suspected bandits stormed the staff quarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at the Kaduna International Airport and abducted some families and one year later, gunmen attacked an area very close to the airport runway and a security operative with the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) was shot dead.

Inside source informed THISDAY that NAMA engineers were working on the Ominidirectional Radio Range (VOR) equipment, surrounded by security operatives when gunshots tore the air and forced everybody to scamper for safety. Unfortunately, bullet hit the ill-fated security official of the agency and he died. The control tower directed Azman Air flight that was about to take off to Lagos to abort it to ensure that the aircraft was not attacked on takeoff.

Azman Air later explained in a statement that the Lagos-bound flight, Azman Air aircraft, “5N-HAI touched down at the Kaduna airport around 12:36 pm and the boarding of Lagos bound passengers was completed around 1:04 pm during which the cockpit crew requested for permission to depart.”

“The Control Tower offered a safety advice to hold on departure due to security threats in a village close to the airport. This delayed our departure by 44 minutes after which the control tower cleared the crew to proceed accordingly. The aircraft was stamped airborne at exactly 1:48 pm.”

Two days after the incident, Azman Air issued another statement saying that it would stop operations to Kaduna.

According to the statement, “The management of Azman Air will like to inform the general public that we will be halting our operations into Kaduna airport for few days. We understand the security situation around the airport has ben handled and normalcy has been restored accordingly, but it is imperative for the management to re-evaluate its operational procedures into the airport to ensure maximum safety of equipment, staff and passengers are fully guaranteed.”

Safety Rating

Industry stakeholders said the security breach incident in Kaduna and other related incidents might draw the attention of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association Operational Security Audit (IOSA), which audits Nigerian carriers’ safety status, insurance companies, Transport Security Administration of the United States (TSA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to review the security situation in Nigeria in their dealings with the country. Insurance premium might rise due to high country risk.

The CEO of Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, Nigeria and former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) expressed the worry that these international aviation agencies would be monitoring what is happening in Nigeria and urged that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) should call for review of the National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP).

“I am certain that ICAO and the TSA are watching the trend in the country but I expect the NCAA to either call for the review of the National Civil Aviation Security Programme or send out Advisory Letters to the various operators, airlines, airports and the allied services to enhance their various services,” Ojikutu said.

He advocated for a type of security programme that would be able to meet the security challenges of the time, noting that NCAA would rely on the national intelligence estimates to be able to give such directives.

“The question that will be going through any discerning minds now is: do we really have a national intelligence estimates or who is expected or responsible for providing the national intelligence? Who will coordinate the airport security among the multiple government security agencies working in the airports? The NCASP said it is the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). Can FAAN designate security responsibility to any of the government security agencies in the airports,” Ojikutu said.

Ojikutu insisted that aviation security remained a function of national security and attacks on any target in aviation is an attack on the state.

“My knowledge in aviation security tells me that aviation security is a function of national security and attacks on any target in aviation is an attack on the state. What am saying is that the frequencies on the attacks are getting on roads and railway could be a rehearsal for major attacks on aviation, especially within the Kaduna state axis. Have you taken a second thought on the man that was killed at Kaduna airport; at the site of the VOR? Could the VOR be the target or why would the bandits face that direction and not the terminal building or the tower? What do the bandits know about the VOR or could there be an insider from the aviation community? Many questions needed to be asked for an intelligent answer to determine a preemptive action or solution for a repeat in any of the airports,” he said.

Ojikutu stated that Nigeria has failed to do what it used to do before it obtained the Category One Safety Status certification from the FAA.

“It is not that scary; we have failed to regularly do what we were doing before we got the FAA certification in Aviation Security (AVSEC) in 2009. Can we talk about this? This is one of the areas my proposal on aviation security for networking the government security agencies working at our airports are expected to address. The last time we did it, like I said, was 2010 following the (Umar Farouk) Abdumutallab failed attempt (to bomb US airliner on December 25, 2009),” Ojikutu added.

Reviewing Security Apparatus

The General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY that the security committee in the aviation industry would review the incident and decide on the next line of action, noting that insecurity is a global phenomenon and therefore a global challenge. On whether the international aviation agencies like ICAO, FAA and others would review their rating of Nigeria, he explained that Aviation Security (AVSEC) comes under different assessment, adding that security issues are national issues and all ought to get involved, from the aviation industry to the federal, the state, local government and the communities.

“Airport security committee meet regularly and it is presided over by the Director General of NCAA. They will review the system. Fighting insecurity requires collective effort. Depending on their decision, the airport can be isolated pending when security is restored,” he said.

Adurogboye also assured that what happened would not affect Nigeria’s rating in international aviation because the incident did not happen at any of the major airports where international carriers operate.

“What happened will not affect our rating. TSA is interested in major gateways. ICAO certification covers major gateways and everything is being done to ensure that security is restored at the place,” he said.

Task Force

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, summoned the heads of Security Agencies, Aviation Minister, Captain Hadi Sirika and the heads of aviation agencies to a meeting on Wednesday with the House leadership and the Chairmen of relevant committees of the House of Representatives on the recent security breach at the Kaduna International Airport.

The House also urged the Federal Government to through the office of the National Security Adviser, (NSA), the Chief of Defence Staff, the Inspector-General of Police and heads of other security agencies to holistically intervene by setting up special security task force (SSTF) on airports across the country.

The House said it took the decisions after adopting the motion of Urgent National Importance, titled, “Urgent Need for The Federal Government Investigate The Recent Banditry Attack at Kaduna International Airport And Reinforce Security Surveillance and Personnel in All The Nigerian Airports sponsored by the Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnolim Nnaji.

The House further directed Federal Ministry of aviation, Federal Airports of Nigeria, (FAAN) security and other security agencies to come up with a more proactive measure in securing the airports, including providing modern security surveillance equipment on the perimeter fences in all airports.

Presenting the motion earlier, Nnaji told the colleagues that about a year ago, armed bandits attacked the staff quarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria at the same Kaduna airport and abducted about twelve persons.

He noted that on March 25, 2022 another horrific armed banditry attack was unleashed at the airport resulting in the death of a security guard of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

Nnaji acknowledged the swift intervention of the military and other security agencies who confronted the heavily armed bandits numbering over a hundred, adding that their gallantry saved the situation.

The Aviation Committee Chairman said he was concerned that the attack on Kaduna airport might escalate to other airports if urgent measures were not taken to safeguard the nation’s aerodromes.

Intelligence Gathering

The two incidents at Kaduna airport last year and this year were surprise attacks, which means that the security operatives at the airports did not envisage them. There are suggestions that security operatives at the airports must have to collaborate with the host community to gather intelligence and possible pre-empt a possible attack and nip it before execution.

Group Captain Ojikutu noted that the first line of any defence layers against insecurity including those considered as aviation insecurity is intelligence.

“Secondly, at MMA in particular with over 23km perimeter fences and where these fences are used as part of public and private buildings or fences, there is need to build a secondary fences as security fences to meet the basic requirements of Document 8973 (from ICAO Security annex) that demands six meter distances from the perimeter fences to any public and private buildings, infrastructure and roads outside the airport,” he said.

THISDAY investigation revealed that in most airports in the country, including the Lagos airport, the access is porous. At the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, the host community accesses the airport environment where sometimes they spread their farm produce like rice to dry. At the Kaduna airport, there are tracks the residents of the host community pass through the airport. It has been there for several years and until the recent insecurity, there had not been security breaches for decades. But now that there is apparent threat, it is expected that the airport security system must have to review its operations.

THISDAY also learnt that FAAN AVSEC had initiated collaboration between airport security and community vigilante. The experiment carried out at the Port Harcourt airport seemed to have worked so FAAN is expected to carry out the experiment at other airports, especially at those airports located at less busy environments like Kaduna airport, which is situated far away from the city.

Ojikutu recommended that Nigeria should fully abide by the ICAO Annex 17 to establish a national aviation security committee and also establish an Autonomous security agency for the airports that would have all the multiple government security agencies under its control.

“How would the NCASP give security coordination of all government security agencies to FAAN that was established primarily for airports development and management not for security. During my time, I brought all the agencies together and drew roaster that put the head of each agencies including FAAN airport manager in control of the rest for one week.

We started this before the US found out they had similar problems and the Al Gore commission recommended the establishment of the TSA that put all the government security agencies in the US airports under the TSA. That is what for many years I have been asking every minister of aviation to do; I have also advised against the arming of the FAAN security until a unified airport security agency is established,” he said.

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