The continued unchecked encroachment of private developers into the airport land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos could further weaken security at the airport.
Coming at a time when airline operators and passengers have repeatedly complained about stolen cargo at the airside, industry experts say private developers erecting structures on the airport land could lead to serious security breach.
The experts have been lamenting that the absence of comprehensive security and perimeter fencing at the airport gives unscrupulous people undue access to restricted areas of the airside, heightening insecurity at the airport.
Visit to the airside last week showed a number of buildings have sprung up very close to the airside, while some others still had scaffolding.
This is in gross violation of provisions of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as contained in documents 8973 on Aviation Security, which state that private and public structures including roads should have a space of at least 6 metres from the airport perimeter fences.
Another document as provided by ICAO 126.96.36.199 states: “Whenever possible, the ground on both sides of a perimeter fence should be cleared in order to establish an exclusion zone (a distance of about 3 metres from the fence is recommended) that would remove cover for any intruders, and should be kept clear of obstructions, such as lamp posts, signposts, equipment, vehicles, and trees, that may assist an intruder to climb the fence. The fence may have to be set from the actual site boundary to leave an unobstructed area outside the fence.”
While our correspondent was unable to ascertain how the private developers got the land in the first place, experts say irrespective of how they got it, the development questions the ability of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to adequately secure the airport.
John Ojikutu, aviation security consultant and secretary-general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), told us that these ICAO provisions are not adhered with at MMIA, “from Ikeja along and Santos Estates to Akowonjo, Egbeda, Shasha, Ejigbo, Ajao Estate, amongst others”.
“How we get over the various ICAO security audits on these, from 2008 when I started getting involved in Nigeria airports security audits, beats my imagination. FAAN needs to do more work that has remained unattended to for nearly 20 years,” Ojikutu said.
The failure to adhere to these provisions is adding to the security woes experienced at the airport as several citizens have had sad tales in recent times.
Atedo Peterside, chairman of ANAP Jets, last week said his jet was robbed on the tarmac of MMIA in Lagos while awaiting approval for take-off. According to him, the incident occurred at about 8:00p.m last Sunday, and he was amazed at the ability of unscrupulous persons to gain access to the airport.
Peterside stressed that the incident showed that the Lagos airport was insecure and as the nation’s busiest airport, concerned authorities should be worried about what happened.
“When they opened the cargo hold, they saw only one bag in it and they took it. They would have taken all the bags if there were more bags there. What this shows is that Lagos airport is vulnerable in terms of security. If the security at the airport is fortified, they should not have been able to enter there at all,” he said.
He also expressed concern over the untamed bushes that grow around the airport and said these bushes provide thieves areas to hide and carry out their unscrupulous acts.
Early in December 2017, there were reports that a private jet was attacked on the runway18R of the airport by unknown bandits while taxiing to the hangar of Evergreen Apple Nigeria (EAN) Ltd. The jet was said to be arriving from Istanbul between 2110 and 2130hrs after landing in Lagos.
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Last year, a private jet conveying two known Nigerian musicians, Tiwa Savage and Wizkid, from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, was allegedly robbed while taxiing on the runway.
“The airport is within complicated road networks and uncontrolled urban development. Rather than the airport to develop into its own land, unfortunately, the private developers are encroaching into the airport land without restrictions from the responsible airport authorities,” Ojikutu said.
“It is very doubtful if the airport authorities have sufficient documents to prove the extent and ownership of the land said to be designated as either Ikeja Airport or later Murtala Muhammed Airport. FAAN has a lot of work to do to get those who have encroached into its land around the airport,” he said.
He also suggested that FAAN should begin to consider the provision of a secondary fence as security fence if enhancing the perimeter fence as security fence is not feasible because of the magnitude of the violations of the standards along the length of the perimeter fence.
“The perimeter fences are obligations to standards Annex 14 (Aerodrome Standards) while the provision of security fence is an obligation to standards in Annex 17 (Aviation Security). If we cannot or have not enhanced the perimeter of the airports or provide a secondary fence as the security fence, we are not complying with the minimum standards,” he said.
However, Henrietta Yakubu, general manager, corporate affairs of FAAN, told us that the recent cargo theft at the airport has nothing to do with the encroachment of buildings into the airside, adding that there are fences round about MMIA.
“We have done an expansion and the airside is completely blocked and there is no access to the airside. I can tell you that there are no incursions,” Yakubu insisted.
Source: By Ifeoma Okeke