Obviously, the responsibility of managing twenty two airports in a complex country like Nigeria by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is not a tea party thing.
This has become clear owing to the huge funds and other logistics involved to keep these airports safe and secured for flight operations and seamless movement of aircrafts and people safe and sound to various parts of the country and other countries around the globe.
For sure, the responsibility of making these airports friendly and safe for aviation activities requires more than having beautiful buildings, but, also involves other critical logistics such as the safety of the airport environments.
According to aviation rules and regulations in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards, the contracting states of the organisation including Nigeria are expected to ensure the airports and the users including air travelers are further secured following the ugly experience of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US and other activities of undesirable elements.
Since the September11 terrorist attack, the different contracting States of ICAO have been investing large sums of money and resources to implement additional security procedures in the hopes of further reinforcing the security of the international civil aviation environment through the implementation of additional security measures such as perimeter fencing of airports to fence off criminals and terrorists from the airports.
In other words, critical issues like the establishment of security perimeter fence around the airport airside area and controlling access are basic ICAO requirements as per Section 4.2 of ICAO Annex 17–Security.
Further, these are measures which can be implemented relatively easily and can have a great impact on securing the civil aviation infrastructure of a Contracting State.
However, these additional security measures can be rendered useless if basic perimeter security and access control procedures are not being implemented accordingly.
And this brings to the fore once again the controversy over the state of the country’s airports with particular attention to the perimeter fencing of the airports in the wake of the recent security breach at the Lagos airport by intruders. The intruders succeeded in accessing the Lagos airport through the loopholes created around the airport.
On many occasions, the FAAN authority had defended that the Lagos airport in particular was well fenced; but many key players had maintained that only four of the 22 airports are partially fenced with the eighteen remaining airports needing a whopping N25 billion to fence them.
Without doubt, as long as intruders and other undesirable elements continue to find their way into the airports and coupled with the rising activities of terrorists including the Boko Haram, stakeholders will always ask questions from FAAN on the state of perimeter fencing of the airports particularly the international airports.
Without any bias, the issue of keeping the airport environment secured is a national issue which should not be treated on the platter of any sentiment if the hitherto relative peace existing in the sector must continue.
While no one is doubting FAAN on its position that the Lagos airport is fenced, the question then is, if it is so, how does it become easy for intruders to access the airport through the restricted parts of the airport?
The time has come for FAAN and the other relevant authorities to be transparent on the actual number of airports that are fully and not partially fenced, as this will enable key players to know the questions to ask from the government at the centre.
The importance of the aviation sector including its airports are too numerous and germane for the government of any nation and its citizens to be left in the hands of only one organisation like FAAN which has many responsibilities crying for attention.
It is hoped that government realise the fact that out of the 22 government airports, it is only four or five that are viable that are feeding the eighteen weak ones. Therefore, leaving the perimeter fencing of the airports in the hands of FAAN is like sitting on a keg of gun powder waiting to explode anytime, God forbids!
From the information gathered, to fence the entire airports in the country may gulp N25 billion and it is almost difficult for FAAN to bring out this sum in the face of other distractions confronting the authority including unnecessary demands from it by the high government officials and its political class.
Any attempt by government to continue to leave the security of the airports in the hands of FAAN alone may spell doom should any intruder with evil motive access the airport to unleash havoc. Nigeria’s government should not drag its luck too far in 2020.