Airport security lapses: Senate moves against drug cartels

Pushes for sanction, prosecution of security heads

The Senate has resolved that the case involving members of a drug gang who planted drugs in the bags of two innocent Nigerians, Zainab Aliyu and Alaramma Ibrahim at the Aminu Kano International Airport while on a Saudi Arabia bound flight must be followed to a logical conclusion.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said this after the debate on the motion seeking the Senate to ensure proactive measures that will guarantee safety at our airports, seaports and railway stations.

Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, representing Kwara central moved the motion that was largely favoured by senators at Tuesday plenary.

Co-sponsors of the motion included, Senator Dahiru Aishatu Ahmed (Adamawa Central), Sen. Mohammed Hassan (Zamfara Central), Sen. Barau Ibrahim Jibrin (Kano North) and Sen. Adeola Solomon Olamilekan (Lagos West)

Others were Senator Akwashiki Godiya (Nasarawa North), Senator Mpigi Barinada (Rivers South-East), and Senator Ekwunife Uche Lilian (Anambra Central).

Zainab, a student of Maitama Sule University, Kano, had travelled from Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) in the company of her mother, Mrs. Maryam Aliyu, and sister, Hajara Aliyu.

She was arrested in Saudi Arabia over allegations that a luggage, bearing her name tag, contained the unlawful substance.

Following a petition from her father to the NDLEA, the anti-narcotics agency launched an investigation, which led to the arrest and arraignment before a Federal High Court in Kano of seven staff of the airport.

The accused were Idris Umar Shehu (alias Umar Sanda), Sanni Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Rhoda Adetunji, Udosen Itoro Henry and Sanni Hamisu. Five of them had since jumped bail.

But the President of the Senate said the upper legislative chamber was determined to ensure that the case was pursued to a logical conclusion.

He noted that security lapses at the Airport were already courting international embarrassment for the nation.

He said: “I had the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj and during my trip, I was able to engage the embassy personnel in Saudi Arabia.

“We held discussions on what happened on the issue of Zainab Aliyu and the other person from Zamfara, who was arrested.

“The story was very pathetic and I decided that we must take every action that those responsible for planting those illicit drugs in their bags are prosecuted.”

He recalled that he invited the Inspector General of Police, the chairman/CEO of NDLEA and the MD FAAN to a meeting last week.

He expressed disappointment over reports that five of the suspects have fled the country.

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“We told them clearly that the National Assembly was not going to allow the case to be swept under the carpet. So we insisted they must be brought back. The case was initially adjourned till June and we were told it was adjourned again till July and we say no the case must be completed expeditiously.

“This people must be punished to serve as deterrence to anybody who toys with the lives of Nigerians.

“With their action so many Nigerians would have been executed innocently through the fault of others and not their own.

“So this motion is apt, it is timely and this Senate will go ahead to pursue this case to its logical conclusion.”

I want to assure that this Senate will ensure that the lives and property of Nigerians are protected that is why we are here.”

Senators at plenary raised questions on the state of security in all the nation’s airport, calling for sanction of all officers on duty when such breaches are confirmed.

Speaking to the motion, senators called for procurement and deployment of appropriate security equipment at the Airports and urged very Important Important Personalities to comply with the extant rules applicable to passengers in the airports.

Expressing further concern on the safety of passenger’s luggage, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege said special consideration should be paid to passengers with single luggage by cancelling the other luggage space allotted to them to eliminate the machination of the syndicate.

Senator representing Kano North, Barau Jibrin said the federal government must equip the airport to close the gap exploited by miscreants and promote the security of passengers in line with international best practices.

Former Benue State governor and Senator representing Benue Northeast, Gabriel Suswam, said political leaders were equally culpable in the compromise of airport security. He argued that they engaged security personnel at the airport to carry their luggage, leading to security lapses.

In its resolutions, the Senate adopted five resolutions. It mandated the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to ensure the installation and usage of effective CCTV cameras and other security gadgets in all Nigerian Airports for the purpose of surveillance.

They also resolved to compel FAAN to acknowledge only accredited personnel on duty to be allowed in restricted areas of the Airport.

Speaking with newsmen, sponsor of the motion, Senator Oloriegbe said he was worried about the indignities Nigerians suffered outside the country for offences they did not commit.

“Preservation of lives is one of the fundamental objectives of the government. My heart bleeds when I hear the fate of Nigerians. What happens at our airports show there is insanity, the airport affects the image of our nation as we search for investors. You go to the airport, you see gadgets, but are they functional?

“The second reason is that for the lapses at airports no one is held accountable.

“Another additional prayer is that FAAN must be invited so that we can walk the talks. The Senate has assured that once the appropriate committee on aviation has been set up, it will be looked into.”

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