Desmond Mgboh, Kano
The scene looked like one from the movies with rifle- wielding military personnel advancing swiftly towards the departure hall of the Aminu Kano International, Kano. A pause here, a swift turn there, rifle- raised briskly up, followed by a spirited dash towards the entry doors of the departure hall. And then a sudden halt, hiding behind the walls.
At another end, just at about the same time, two military choppers were hovering mid -air, thundering steadily towards the runway area, steadying at a point for scores of combat officers, including a few attack dogs, to drop down and assumed combat positions.
At the departure lounge, which was alive with civilian traffic- passengers, airport staffers and petty traders, all movements were instantly frozen as all the forces took over the space of the hall.
There was yet another show: An attempt to round up a set of criminal elements, who had taken hostage of some assumed passengers. The objective was to restore normalcy with minimal civilian causality.There were sporadic exchange of gunshots in the hall, followed by minutes of combat between the security men and the hostage -takers. This was succeeded by the arrest of the gang members, the invitation of some bomb experts to defuse the bomb, including the evacuation of the injured and the dead by the waiting ambulances.
Scare -stiffed passengers, with one -opened eye, watched the scene with frightening breath, despite repeated assurances of their safety. To many of them who had sweated profusely anyway, they were faced with a real life siege. Nothing in their trembling hearts or in their startled spirits could reassure them that it was indeed a simulated exercise.
The truth, however, is that it was just a simulation exercise, one of such many rehearsals undertaken by the officers of the Nigerian Air Force in a bid to test their own preparedness in the event of a real terror situation at the nation’s airports. The simulated exercise, this time around, took place at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
In his remarks, the Chief of Training and Operations (CTOPS), Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao said that this effort by the Chief of the Defence Staff is in line with his vision to reposition the Air Force into a highly professional and disciplined force, through capacity building and initiative for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.
“The exercise is an operational command exercise that is aimed at improving the counter- terrorism posture of the Nigeria Air Force to effectively respond to any security threat within our airports. Across the world, airports are often regarded by terrorists as high value targets on account of the high number of people that are often found therein during the period of operations.
“To this end, the specter of a successful terrorists attack on any Nigerian airport presupposes the need for all physical security plans to booster airport security against such threats. Exercise Steel Dom 2, which is the third in a series of such exercises to be conducted by the Nigerian Air Force is driven by the obvious need to adequately reduce the vulnerability of our airports, which are critical national infrastructures.
“Today’s exercise would simulate the insertion and exertion of Nigeria Air Force Special Forces known as the panthers, operating in concert with other sister security agencies to dissolve a terrorist’s hostage in one of the terminals in order to restore normalcy to airport operations.
“The exercise would further demonstrate the possible integration and use of both air and ground assets to respond to an act of terrorism inside the airport,” Amao said.
Prior to the commencement of the simulation exercise, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Sadiq Abubakar Baba said that the exercise is organised to review the efforts of the Force in countering terrorism and other security threats at the nation’s airports.
The Air- Force boss explained that the exercise had become imperative in the light of the fact that the country is currently experiencing a number of security challenges, which required that, as a fighting force, they should be professional and effective in dealing with these challenges.
He recalled that two similar simulation exercises had been conducted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, adding that a fourth one would soon hold in Uyo International Airport, Akwa Ibom State.
“The exercises that we have conducted so far have tested the readiness of the Nigerian Air Force as well as its collaboration with other airport security stakeholders to achieve the synergy required to jointly counter terrorists should it happen in any our airports” said the Air Vice Marshal
“I believe that sustaining the exercises across other airports and other troubled spots across the country on a regular basis would constantly put security personnel and their stakeholders in good state to effectively curtail national security threats,” he noted.
“To this end , the Nigerian Air Force is motivated to conduct more of these operational exercises in other parts of the country in the nearest future” he stated.
He appreciated the sacrifices of officers dealing with security challenges across the country, assuring that their sacrifices will not go in vain as their compatriots would continue to forge ahead until every part of Nigeria is safe and secured.
While appreciating guests for finding time to grace the occasion, he told Governor Abdullahi Ganduje that his presence was indicative of the premium he placed on the security of Kano State and Nigeria as a whole.
Speaking to the officers at the end of the exercise, Governor Ganduje said that, “The exercise was very coordinated, highly successful and in case of a true and practical situation, Nigerians would have no problem, with this kind of officers on the ground”