It has been confirmed that Nigeria’s major airports which operate international services were unable to meet security and safety standards during the recent audit carried out by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the renewal of Nigeria’s Category 1 safety status.
THISDAY reliably gathered that the FAA team gave Nigeria 65 days to close the gaps at the airports’ infrastructural deficiencies, especially in the area of safety and security.
Without the renewal of the Category 1 rating, Nigerian registered aircraft cannot fly to the US and this would also downgrade the rating of Nigeria in the world air transport industry.
An informed source who is familiar with the development disclosed that the FAA team was dissatisfied with the dismal record of stowaways from Nigeria, which depict the security apparatus of the airports as porous, which explains why there are so many security breaches.
There have been scores of stowaway attempts incidents at the nation’s airports.
In March 2010, a Nigerian, Okechukwu Okeke was found dead in the nose wheel compartment of the United States carrier, Delta Air Lines, Boeing B777 aircraft parked on the tarmac of the Lagos airport.
Also, on September 19, 2010, another Nigerian man was discovered crushed to death in the wheel well of Arik Air flight, which arrived from Johannesburg, South Africa. Prior to Daniel’s incident, another Nigerian was discovered in the undercarriage compartment of Arik Air aircraft, after it returned from a flight to New York.
Ground workers at the international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, were shocked one Saturday morning on March 14, 2015, when the dead body of a man in his mid-40s dropped from the wheel-well of Arik Air aircraft being prepared for another flight to New York.
According to security officials, the body, which had started decomposing, might have been in the wheel-well since the aircraft had its last flight from New York.
There was another stowaway, who sneaked into the wheel-well of the massive Airbus A340-500 aircraft, hoping to hide there and get to New York; but instead of arriving at the JFK Airport, New York alive, it was his dead body that came back and fell at the tarmac.
These documented incidents showed that the nation’s major airports are permeable and therefore not secure enough to meet international security standards.
THISDAY also learned that Nigeria, through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), has met all other assessments during the FAA audit and it was also confirmed that the gaps observed during the audit would be closed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN)
But industry consultant and the CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe said that the only solution to airport infrastructural deficiencies is concession, insisting that transparent concession of these airports would permanently solve the problem of obsolete and porous airports.
“The solution of poor airport facilities is concession, but there should be efforts to ensure that every staff of FAAN is carried along. The unions are major stakeholders. The concession programme should be put in the open so that the country will get the best of it. It is the responsibility of government in the concession that every staff gets all his full entitlements just at the point of concession and those that will be retained will be retained on different service conditions,” Aligbe said.
He noted that concession will create the opportunity for employment to be given to more people. So, the Nigerian government would create the opportunity for many currently unemployed to get employment, which he said would make the country move forward.
On the deficiencies at the airport, Aligbe said: “Anyway, they gave us room to close gaps and maybe towards the end of their report they will come and check before the will issue the report.
“The thing FAA is interested in at the airports is the safety system; not just individual things. What happened over a period of time is the high record of stowaways. The entire safety system of the airport is porous. In terms of security, safety and standards, the major airports are not modern. And you cannot bring a new wine and put in old wine skin. You cannot, even if you go and create new security system, if the airport does not adjust to it because of its old design, it will not take cognisance of the equipment you are trying to put in.”