Nigeria: Airports – Achieving Safety, Security Through Facility Upgrade

The Federal Government is hoping to use the ongoing restructuring of airport infrastructure to reinforce security at the nation’s airports. It is providing modern, technology based security equipment and training of personnel as part of the pre-emptive security measures in view of the security threats in the country.

By the time the rehabilitation and expansion of airport facilities are completed, air passengers would be checked at the entrance of the airport terminals before they access the departure halls and would also be checked again before going to the airside to board their flights.

Many African countries that have relatively high level of terror threats have double security checks in their airports. Countries like Egypt, Algeria, Ethiopia and others have to pass passengers through two phases of security checks. Also in Ethiopia, arriving passengers also go through another phase of luggage security checks.


Nigeria unfortunately has to join the fray as the hitherto somnolent lives of Nigerians have been shaken by terror killings and attendant threats.

So, this is part of the airport restructuring programme being carried out by the Federal Government. Government is currently remodeling 11 out of 22 airports it owns and being managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in the first phase of the project. In June, it would start work on the remaining 11 airports in the second phase of the programme.

Director of Engineering, FAAN Mr. Saleh Dunoma said that after the remodeling work on these airports is completed, FAAN would depend more on sophisticated security apparatus based on technology and not on the old system that is human oriented as security threats in the country has taken a new dimension, emphasizing that the agency would embark on massive training of its aviation personnel, adding that this would be a continuous process in order to have firm and reliable security operation at the airports in the country.

Post Underwear Bomber

The Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, said that after the failed attempt of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (who hid powder bomb in his underwear) failed to destroy American airliner in Detroit, USA, a lot of security measures have followed that incident in order to make the airports more secure.

In recognition of these changes, the Federal Government has decided to incorporate strict security details into its airport infrastructure in order to meet international standards and also protect the lives of air passengers and other airport users.

Demuren explained to journalists last week during the inspection of ongoing airport remodeling projects in Abuja why government decided to incorporate new security measures at the airports.

“You will recall that after the incident of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, they came out with enhanced safety measures at the airport. And what we have said is that everybody must pass through 100 per cent safety checks at the airport. The remodeling we are doing right now, we have taken security issues into consideration and what we are really doing is that everybody that comes in cannot in any way avoid security; you must pass the same place; all your bags, everything will be checked and we are being cautious than we used to be.”

In addition to that, Demuren said that state of the art security equipment would be installed in strategic places in the rehabilitated terminals and there would be a new attitude in terms of security by the airport management.

“When this project is completed, you know we used to open the bags before but we are now putting equipment that can detect everything you have, whether it is explosive, whether it is liquid, powers, we don’t care what it is, but we can find them out now. We do that at the entrance of the terminal and we have another one at the central screening. With those two we cannot miss it.”

In the new Hajj, General Aviation Terminal (GAT) at Abuja airport, which is under construction at the old domestic terminal site, provision has been made for the strict screening of VIPs and at the threshold of the departure is a security system that would check passengers and their luggage before being welcomed by their airlines as most of the operations on that terminal are charter besides hajj operation.


Demuren also explained, “In the case of the other areas where we have some challenges, particularly in the case of VIP movements and all that stuff, we have taken care of that. They come here now and screen all the bags, especially check in baggage. We will not open this terminal when it is completed without having the new security equipment installed.”

Safety in Airspace

Just as government is incorporating stiffer security measures at the airports, it is also improving safety in the airspace. The Managing Director of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Nnamdi Udo, told journalists during the inspection of airport facilities last week that government through adequate funding is installing airfield lighting and also completing the total VHF coverage of Nigeria’s airspace.

In addition, the agency would soon direct airlines to migrate to its Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which is almost completed.

“Air safety is something verifiable, something you can measure and establish. Already, for Abuja airport, before now there have been incessant airfield lighting outage but within 48 hours we were able to bring portable emergency landing system, which had been deployed so we are at second layer level of safety and above that and of course the rehabilitation that is ongoing is almost completed. In the next four weeks we will have a brand new approach and runway lighting system and not just that; it is also being backed up by generator, UPS (uninterrupted power system) back up and the third level which we are also doing is the solar powered airfield lighting system.”

The agency is also providing Performance Based Navigation (PBN) to make flying in Nigeria’s airspace safer, easier and cheaper as airlines would now burn less fuel and spend less time flying from one city to another.

“We had a stakeholders meeting on Monday (last week) and it was designed for two hours from 8.00 O’clock in the morning. The pilots were at the various sites including TRACON and Safe Tower in Lagos up to 4.00 pm. They were looking at the modern technology that is going to establish the performance based navigation (PBN) and GNSS operation in Nigeria. And let’s just be very hopeful for a seamless navigation, the type they get in Europe and United States.”

With the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) working, the agency now generates charges from over flyers which are paid in foreign exchange and it now traps hundreds of flights making use of its system as Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) that guide them beyond Nigeria’s airspace.

“Our Oceanic system is being covered by radar and all high altitude operators and en route facilities have already contributed to improved revenue for NAMA. Yes, categorically the TRACON project has increased NAMA revenue and we hope to do more.

Now ATC can visualize aircraft flying in any part of the country, but the controllers cannot talk to all of them, depending on their location. This is why government embarked on total VHF coverage of Nigeria’s airspace so that there will be communication from ground to air between pilots and the controllers”.

On the level of work on the project, Udoh said, “As we speak, in a couple of days the last remote site in Wukari will be covered and total VHF will be achieved in Nigeria. Since the end of last year we have achieved that in the south but because of the ongoing project in the north and some challenges in the area of security, there was a little delay. We are coupling at Wukari what we call the remote control air to ground system powered by a remote station in Wukari.

“This means that wherever an aircraft is, pilots can communicate, whether in the north or south, you will be able to get the destined or estimated airport so there will be no loss of communication with any control tower.”

Weather Forecast

Also to ensure safe flight operations, there is a more reliable weather forecast from the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) which has acquired modern weather equipment in addition to Doppler weather radar for low level wind shear that was said to have contributed significantly in the many accidents of the past.

Speaking on weather forecast, the Director General of NIMET, Dr. Anthony Anuforo said, “We provide weather information which is part of safety, bearing in mind the weather phenomena. Even this evening (last Thursday) when you went to Benin your flight was delayed because of weather. Before you left here we knew that you were going to have; the weather at that time and pilots were duly briefed and that was why they took those necessary safety precautions. We are continuing to improve on the quality of services because if you look at the aviation sector, it is on the path of implementing its transformation roadmap.”


But in spite of the massive restructuring work that is being carried out at the airports, the Federal Government still encounters avalanche of criticisms. Many in the industry have criticized the nature of work being done, the alleged slippery tiles at the Lagos airport and some have even requested for the audit of the money being expended on the rehabilitation project, even before the work was completed.

The Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, told journalists during the inspection of airport facilities that government was responding to the many years of clamor for the upgrade and modernization of airport facilities that had become obsolete and hampered passenger facilitation.

She therefore wondered why there were so many criticisms by the so called stakeholders who, according to her, ought to be happy that what they clamored for over the years was being realized. The Minister also argued that if the stakeholders really cared for the improvement of the industry they would not be so critical at the efforts aimed at turning it around, especially as what was being done involves a physical change which everyone could see.

“I am always perplexed when I heard that stakeholders are not being included. I don’t know who is a stakeholder and who is not a stakeholder. Every Nigerian is a stakeholder, including you and me; therefore, if any individual decides that progress is not in his purview, I see the person as having an issue he has to deal with.”

She also spoke on the projects, “what we are doing goes beyond remodeling of the airports. We are actually doing restructuring and reconstructing of the airports. As you have seen, we are just starting to go round the airport. We are doubling the sizes of those terminals and changing all the facilities and utilities within the airport.

“So, you can’t call that remodeling, it is restructuring and reconstructing. That is what we are doing to ensure that passengers have safe mode of transportation and we want to ensure that passengers have value for their money and most importantly, we want every Nigerian and stakeholders to be proud of our airport environment. It’s a total transformation of the aviation sector.”

At the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano where an international terminal was almost completed, the Minister spoke on the need to have peace in the country.

“When we have peace we can perform; when we have peace we can transform. What you see here (the new terminal) is the testimony of commitment. Some people are mean spirited and they don’t like this country. I thank many Nigerians for believing in us; those who don’t believe in us should come to Kano,” the Minister said. – ThisDay



Posted by on May 20 2012. Filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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