Without perimeter fencing, airports anywhere in the world would be a thorough fare where anything can happen. It then means that, the security and safety of airports environment largely depends on how fortified the circumference of an airport is. No wonder the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), under Capt. Rabiu Yadudu has taken the issue of perimeter fencing very seriously since he assumed office as the helmsman of the authority, The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations mandate standard airports to have both perimeter and security fences. ICAO annex 14 sees to perimeter fence, while annex 17 has provisions for a security fence. Airport security fence, however, is not a child’s play. To meet the ICAO recommended practices. There is need for adequate provision of huge funds to construct perimeter and operational fences across all the over 22 airports operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The funds are expected to take care of the several hundreds of kilometres of landmass across the airports in the country.
Beyond mere costs several other factors need to be considered which include; physical size of the airport; local topography; level of security; weather and geography. Aside these factors, there is the maintenance of the whole fence “system” that has to be taken into consideration, together with the materials and the specific assets employed: Nets barbed wire, cameras, sensors, infrareds, intrusion detection devices are also required. At present, some of the international airports for example: Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt have what can be called first class perimeter fencing even as works are on going on many other airports. Recall that FAAN went through harrowing experience before Port Harcourt perimeter fence became what it is today. ICAO security guidelines prescribe that all airports must be secured with double perimeter fences.
Even at the enormous challenges, FAAN had painstakingly applied other safety measures in line with international best practice to boost security and safety within the nation’s airports. The reality however, is that FAAN security measures so far, are in line with the expected standard globally. For instance, aviation experts believe that perimeter security poses a significant challenge for any airport, from the smallest to the vastest. To them, each and every airport can decide to deal with this challenge in its own way, in accordance to its specific needs and peculiarities, with a focus to protect the border of the airport, a result that can be reached in various different ways. The agency had introduced the perimeter patrol, built perimeter towers, which enables the Aviation Security, AVSEC, personnel and other security agencies to have a full overview of the airport environment and installed latest technologies in strategic locations to increase surveillance.
Based on this, the Federal Government has supported the agency’s commitment on safety and security and has also ensured adequate perimeter fencing for some of the major airports in the country, including the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA); Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano; Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA); Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja amongst others. In line with the international safety standards, the current Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of FAAN, Capt. Hamisu Rabiu Yadudu, since assumption of office has continued to comply and also ensured that none of the airports is porous. In October, last year, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo approved N2.97 billion for fencing and perimeter road for the Port- Harcourt International Airport. As part of security measures, FAAN had continuously reiterated its commitment to erect perimeter fencing at airports across the country to improve safety and security of aircraft and passengers.
The second memorandum is for the fencing and perimeter road for the Port Harcourt International Airport and this project was abandoned since 2011. However, with FAAN’s resolve to always emphasise safety and of course, in response to the philosophy of President Muhammadu Buhari to complete all abandoned projects and ongoing projects, this safety, security critical item is currently on course. With the completion of the perimeter fencing, FAAN would take its security and safety campaign a notch higher as it will allow for monitoring of the fence integrity and also for additional security; to be able to go round the circumference of the airport for improved security and safety operations.
FAAN has successfully put a mechanism whereby they review the number of the On Duty Cards (ODC) issued to operators’ staff. Since then and with such strict personnel monitoring by FAAN, only people designated to be in restricted areas are able to gain access to such areas. In addition to that, FAAN had since, stopped the renewal of On Duty Cards (ODCs) for former workers of airlines and FAAN. In line with this and other milestone achievements in security initiative that the agency received commendations from the acting Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA), Capt. Abdullahi Sidi who applauded FAAN for providing quality security systems at the nation’s airports, particularly the international aerodromes.
Capt. Sidi while making the commendation recently noted that, despite some of the operational challenges at the airports, the major aerodromes in Lagos and Abuja had continued to receive high ratings in the area of security in international community. He said Lagos and Abuja airports had consistently scored over 90 percent in international security audits, and a good advertisement of the Federal Government’s focus on security and safety of the aerodromes.“Without the high-security networks in Nigerian airports, Sidi explained, Delta airlines would have ceased operations in Nigeria. He said: “Inasmuch as we have some minor security issues, Nigeria airports especially the Lagos and Abuja, security-wise, we have achieved 96 percent of the International Security Audit. If you remember, not long ago, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, received ICAO certificate for achieving very high security standards at our airports”, Sidi said.
Okoroafor writes from Lagos