In May this year when officials of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) were visiting Nigeria to examine its facilities, two ugly incidents occurred at the nation’s premier gateway, the Murtala
Muhammed Airport, Lagos. First, personnel of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) were said to have beaten up a Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) aviation security officer as a result of misunderstanding between them in front of the terminal building. The second, two armed Customs officers were also reported to have pummeled FAAN’s aviation security staff inside the departure hall. Both incidents were widely reported by the news media.
We need to note that airports are mirrors that display the images of a country. Impression of visitors to a country is formed right from the moment he arrives at the airport. In many countries, gigantic boards are erected outside the arrival hall with welcoming messages by government and corporate organizations. All these go to show how strategic and important the airport is. The sector where airport emerges is in a class of its own .It is an elitist sector not a pugilism arena where spectators go to derive curious excitement from watching two men slugging it out for fame, money and laurels. Airport is not all comers’ affairs. Therefore, it is expected that whosoever has any reason to be within that vicinity should show decorum, urbanity and civility in the highest degree.
There are questions begging for answers. What is the level of provocation that the officers in question could not lodge with their superiors as all of them belong to the security committee of the airport? Are there inter agency rivalries among the security operatives at the airport? One expects that security personnel posted to the airports should be men and women of exemplary character. Responsibility carries with it ability to restrain one’s anger in a situations that could result to skirmishes. How do we prevent reoccurrence of the clanger?
A retired Principal Aviation Security Superintendent, Babs Akinola says: “the law does not permit anyone to beat anybody. Those who beat people are just arrogant and pompous; that is why they have the audacity to beat other security officials.”
“The way out of friction between FAAN and other securities agencies is for the agency’s management to make copies of FAAN’s Bye Laws available to all other agencies at the airports. Every other security agency at the airport is subordinate to the FAAN; at least that is what the law says. It is contained in the Federal Republic of Nigeria official Gazette No. 29 Volume 92, April 29th 2005.
“The station manager of the British Airways at the Airport may be the highest paid officer there, when it comes to security issues, safety, maintenance of the airport, FAAN’s Airport Manager is the head of all the agencies.
Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) an aviation security consultant, who was a Military Commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos between 1990—1994 notes that there will always be skirmishes among the various security operatives. “It will always happen unless we have a central control system. A security of a place is not shared.” As it is now, each of the security outfits wants to assert its authority.”Every airport is a border post of some sort. You cannot put two controls at one border post. He makes reference to the United States of America where the Customs, Immigration are under the control of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If a similar method is adopted, bad blood among the security agencies could be stemmed.
In our opinion, the action of the security officers is a betrayal of the highest esteem which the public placed on them. There is the need for the authorities to do a thorough reorganisation with a view to weeding out those whose conduct is found to be distasteful to the image of our nation. Some of them have spent too many years there and seem to have forgotten the humongous tasks on their shoulders. Besides, the authorities may have to do more in reorienting their mindset that every man, irrespective of his status, is entitled to be treated with dignity. Some stories emanating from the Lagos Airport reveal that much needs to be done, not only by government functionaries alone. It is incumbent on private corporate organisations as well as small scale business owners to cherish our collective assets and guard them jealously. Business cannot be conducted in a hostile environment.