AVIATIONLINE: Were there times your family suffered deprivation as a result of your official engagements?
OGUNEDO : Thirdly, twice on this job, I had partial stroke. To crown it all, between December 2003 and April 2004, I was crippled at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos from where I was transferred to the Military Hospital, Yaba, Lagos before I was miraculously healed. From the Military Hospital I was recommended to go for surgery in the UK and I did go in April 2004. Before I left, I had been healed. Not being too sure I still travelled to the UK. But in the UK, after series of tests I was told I never suffered from any ailment. The miracle was complete and I came back without any treatment whatsoever.
AVIATIONLINE: How many years did you put in the service of FAAN?
OGUNEDO: The first time was 31 years. By April 2013 I turned 60 years and I retired. Two months later I was given a contract of two years which ended on the 4th of June, 2015. In totality I served FAAN for 33 years.
AVIATIONLINE: Would you say your subordinates and superior officers were happy with you?
OGUNEDO: If you spent 33 years in Aviation Security of FAAN and all your superiors and subordinate officers were happy with you all through then something must be wrong with you. It means you were not working. You must have come directly from heaven. If, on the other hand, and within the period, all these people hate you, again you must be the first son of Lucifer. AVSEC Directorate has the highest number of staff in FAAN. At a time we were nearly 2000 in number. As at the time I left we were down to about 1300 nationwide. This is by far too small a number to provide adequate security for all airports. The only way you can manage this number is strict enforcement of discipline. This, I tried to do, and I did not only do it, I did my best to live by example. So many would love my style, while others would hate me with passion. That is natural. Al you need do is to keep clear conscience and remove all small prejudices that will demean you and then go ahead. So whether I was hated by any person or group of persons did not matter to me provided my action benefited a greater number. Let me give one little example. Around 2012, just before I retired during a FAAN manpower audit I positioned the Directorate to have four (4) General Managers considering the staff strength. This demand was not implemented before I retired. However, before some unseen hand(s) either within the Directorate or otherwise had gone to alter it and the result was that AVSEC was given only one General Manager. This was bad and it was done in bad fate. When I came back and we discussed it no one could explain what happened. I started working again and in 2014 we got two more General Managers, making a total of three. If we had only one General Manager, the Directorate could not have had two airport managers and two Regional Managers.
AVIATIONLINE: Please explain and give instances when you fell out with some of them.
OGUNEDO: No, there is no way would give particular instances. But note that it is not easy to recommend that your staff should be sacked from service. However, if your staff involves in an illegal act that warrants his dismissal, you must be courageous enough to recommend his dismissal and so many had to be dismissed that way. At some other times you have a staff who had stayed between 10 and 20 years in an airport and had become an institution in such a place to the extent that he/she is a threat to security, if you do not take him/her out of that airport you would have yourself to blame. Of course, such transfers had to be made no matter how powerful or the sort of powers behind such individuals. You need courage to do this and at times at the risk of your job.
AVATIONLINE: FAAN AVSEC personnel have been manhandled several times by other security officers attached to the Airports under the control of FAAN. What do you think is responsible for this?
OGUNEDO: I blame FAAN management for this. AVSEC personnel have continued to be degraded, assaulted, dehumanised, disgraced and demoralised in the course of performing their lawful duties by other security agencies working at the airports. Reason? Because AVSEC is not armed. Decree No 87 of 1993 empowered AVSEC to carry arms on them in the course of performing their duties. However, all successive management of FAAN has kept quiet on this empowerment. Why? In one of FAAN’s management meetings in 2012 when the issue came up, one Director stood up and said outright No, to the issue because if AVSEC is allowed to carry arms we would intimidate the rest of FAAN staff. My MD/CEO then told us he would never support AVSEC carrying arms. No wonder the intimidation and humiliation from other security agencies. As long as there is no balance of power in terms of arms carriage within the security agencies deployed to the airport.
Yet it is AVSEC that has the sole responsibility to guard and protect the entire airport, landside, airside, terminal building, aircrafts including cargo, aeronautical and non-aeronautical installations, etc.
The only way out of the clashes between AVSEC and the other security agencies is to arm AVSEC and there would be balance of power as well as respect for the outfit. In the interim, constant dialogue is the answer, though AVSEC would still remain the weaker side on the dialogue table. The Airport Security Committee (ASC) should meet more frequently to dialogue and reduce areas of friction between the agencies. Also effort should be made to bring all the agencies together in workshops and seminars. Here all the cadres especially the junior ranks of the agencies would come together to dialogue and know the job of one agency stops and that of the other begins. Heads of agencies should foist closer relations openly for their subordinates to see. This would reduce areas of friction.
AVIATIONLINE: What advice would you give to those still in FAAN service?
OGUNEDO: FAAN is a good place to work provided you keep your head cool, At all times and stages in the Authority try to develop yourself. Do not wait for FAAN, you will grow.
AVIATIONLINE: How would you rate the security department you are leaving behind?
OGUNEDO: The Aviation Security Department of FAAN remains one of the most disciplined security agencies in our airports. Take an objective assessment of corruption in the airport vis-à-vis other security agencies that have direct interface with passengers, you would score AVSEC very high in terms of discipline. Again, in terms of performance, AVSEC of FAAN is world class. Take two major examples amongst so many: On December 24, 2009, a major world recorded security breach that never before was known in the industry occurred. One British/Nigeria boy called Abdull Murtallab jolted the world with what is now known as the underpants bomber when he made an attempt to blow Delta Airlines mid-air en-route to the USA. Fortunately eagle eyed and vigilant Air Marshalls in the aircraft aborted the attempt. Till date nobody knows from where and how he strapped himself with the bomb and boarded the aircraft.
Nigeria was to be hanged since that boy is a black Nigerian boy. My job was on the line if I failed to produce an answer. The world was waiting, Mr President was restless, and the world press was hovering over FAAN’s head. The boy travelled December 24 night and his identity was unknown in the midst of thousands of passengers that travelled that night. We had to wait until CNN flashed his portrait and AVSEC went to work. Remember, developed countries see Nigeria as a third world country where nothing works. In under six hours from the time CNN unmasked him, and with our ‘outdated and obsolete’ CCTV AVSEC was able to produce a footage of ABDULL Murtalab’s movement and stay in MMA, starting from his disembarkation from Aero Air which arrived from Accra, Ghana to his boarding Delta Airlines en-route Amsterdam. Abdull Murtalab passed through five countries of the world before that incident and it was only in Nigeria that footage of his movement was neither captured showing that he neither entered nor exited Nigeria with the bomb. It took Nigeria a visit of the five continents of the world to launder its image before the international community could believe that Nigeria was not a terrorist country. No other country through where he passed could do that.
The second example of our resilience and professionalism is the recently conducted ICAO security audit on Nigeria. Nigeria was adjudged one of the in the world’s best with a score of over 93%. This was my last assignment as a Director in in FAAN. What a time to bow out.
AVIATIONLINE: Some term you an ethnic bigot. What is your reaction?
OGUNEDO: Some term me an ethnic bigot? With a staff strength of over 1500; those who call me ethnic bigot should point at just one ‘Ogunedo’ outside myself in AVSEC Directorate or don’t I have qualified children of mine who are applicants. If I was an ethnic bigot I would not get the level of cooperation and goodwill I had while I was the Director of Security in FAAN. If I was an ethnic bigot the successes we recorded as a family would not have been possible. There would have been high level of ill will and perhaps sabotage, especially from those who felt aggrieved and marginalised. The issue is that while it lasted I insisted on high level of discipline and professionalism for the sake of my image, the authority and Nigeria as a whole. That was what mattered most to me and I achieved that and FAAN- Nigeria is better for it.
AVIATIONLINE: Would you say in all honesty that the service you are leaving behind is better than the one you met?
OGUNEDO: With the level of resources at my disposal while it lasted, I can conveniently and without any fear of contradiction say that I am leaving behind a better service than I met it. A time was when it was a taboo for any AVSEC staff to visit HQ and enter into any office of perceived opponent without getting a query at best. Then there were factions in the hierarchy of AVSEC management, it is either you belong to Paul or Appolos to the detriment of the authority. This was one of the main reasons why the idea of AVSEC carrying arms was botched.
Struggle for power. All that is gone now. The Directorate works as a family now except it is re-introduced; no witch-hunting, no fear of intimidation. The ambicule of the Directorate headquarters now is a beauty to behold and second to none, with modern conference room and conveniences. Before I left, the Directorate could boast of producing two Regional Managers out of four, and two Airport Managers. I asked for six Airport Managers and I was given four. Before I came in as the Director of AVSEC it was unthinkable for security to produce an Airport Manager, not even General Managers. I became a Director when I was a Deputy General Manager, not even General Manager. The General Managers we had came from Operations Department. The perception of AVSEC then was that bad. When I became the first substantive Director from within the Department all that changed. By the time I left on June 4, the Directorate could not boast of three General Managers, 12 DGMs and over 20 AGMs.
For over 25 years AVSEC was battling to take possession of production, issuance and management of Access Control Permits in all the airports. Hitherto, this most important function of AVSEC department was in the hands of people from other departments who have no stake in the security of airports except for the sake of power grabbing and impunity. However, with the assistance and understanding of the present Managing Director and Chief Executive of FAAN, who, himself acted as the Director of AVSEC, I was able to wrestle this out of their grip back to where it belongs, that is AVSEC department) to go back no more.