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Executive Order makes security top issue at Nigeria airports

… NCAA, FAAN interface with US security

Following the final implementation of the executive order on ease of doing business at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, aviation authorities are interfacing with the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA), it has been learnt.

The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Muhtar Usman, met with the TSA officials in company of officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to iron out grey areas in the implementation as it relates to Delta Airline, the only American airline operating to Nigeria and other airlines flying from Nigeria to America.

It would be recalled that Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had last month, issued the executive order that would enhance ease of doing business at ports of entry. The order officially took effect on June 8.

Parts of Osinbajo’s order read: “All relevant MDAs at the airports shall within 30 days of the issuance of this order merge their respective departure and arrival interfaces into a single customer interface, without prejudice to necessary back-end procedures.

“There shall be no touting, whatsoever, by official or unofficial persons at any port in Nigeria. On duty staff shall be properly identified by uniform and official cards. Off duty staff shall stay away from the ports except with the express approval of the agency’s head. The FAAN Aviation Security (AVSEC) and Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) Security shall enforce this order.”

The implementation of the order had commenced at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos, with the disappearance of multiple checks at the departure halls. However the Acting General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu clarified that implementation of the directive shall not amount to compromise on safety in any way at the nation’s airports and as such FAAN would not completely eradicate manual checks.

She emphasized that such checks must be done when a luggage is observed to be containing suspicious and a security agent wants to confirm his or her suspicion.

Mrs. Yakubu said: “FAAN cannot compromise security. So we are working with the security agencies, airlines and others. When there is a need to search baggage manually, we do so but that takes place at the baggage hall, not within the purview of where the passengers are”. As part of the implementation exercise, Yakubu said FAAN had since collapsed all the different screening desks at the airport into one point just as he stressed that FAAN Aviation Security (AVSEC), Quarantine, Customs and other security agencies are now in one single point to check the luggage of passengers coming into the airport.

Before the order, when passengers screened their baggage at the screening machines at the entrance of the departure halls, the baggage would again be subjected to manual checks at the check-in counter of airlines. However, with the order, the practice of multiple checks has been scrapped. However, the implementation of the order recorded a snag when Delta Airlines insisted on conducting manual checks on the screening in deviance to the executive order.

It was learnt that Delta Airlines’ decision was hinged on the TSA policy which stipulates that: “At least 25 per cent of passengers’ check-in luggage travelling to the US must be screened manually.” This policy, it was gathered, also applies to airlines flying to the US; including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Emirates, among others.

This is why the meeting, according to an NCAA source became imperative to iron out the grey areas to ensure seamless implementation of the order.

The TSA attaché, West African Region, Mr. Gary Pleus, was in the company of Mr. James Plasman, Economic Officer of the United States Consulate General, and Group Captain USA Sadiq, Director, Security Services of FAAN, at the meeting.

According to a source the meeting was to discuss the way by which Delta Airlines carried out their operations without contravening the executive order.

It would be recalled that Delta Airlines had pledged to cooperate with Nigerian authorities on the executive order implementation.

Meanwhile aviation security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd), hailed the harmonisation of screening at the airports, saying aviation security had a single line of control globally. He said when over seven agencies conducted separate screening at the airport; it became difficult to hold any agency responsible in the event of any slip.

Confirming that FAAN has started the implementation of the Executive Order since Monday last week, Mrs. Yakubu said: “FAAN has started implementation on Monday. We have been able to collapse all the different desks at the airport into one. If you go to MMIA at the screening section, you will find out that the FAAN AVSEC, Quarantine and a few other security agencies are there. All of them are there now to check the luggage of passengers coming into the airport.

If there is a need for further checks; when the luggage get into the baggage hall and you suspect any luggage, further checks are done there. We no longer have different desks at the airport. We don’t have Customs, Quarantine and others separate but have collapsed all of them into one”.
On scanners, Yakubu who admitted that what they have now are monitors said that FAAN had already made provision for more scanners which are expected to arrive this weekend and that the number coming in will take care of every passenger.

“These scanners will take care of everybody. You know what we have now are the monitors. It is because FAAN wanted to comply with the 30-day executive order, so we used what we have on ground to start implementation. The scanners are coming in this weekend”, the GM said.




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