AVIATION security consultant and scribe of the Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (Retd) has flayed recent information put out by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) directing agencies in the aviation industry to beef up security, stating that the situation was supposed to be handled on a need to know basis instead of tipping the terrorists that the country was on to them.
In a conversation with Nigerianflightdeck.com on the security alert raised by the government, captain Ojikutu said the report from the SGF should have been classified and directed to the Office of the NSA or to the Minister of State for Aviation and not directly to the agencies not put online in public media
He said,”I just read online the letter the SGF wrote and sent to the Aviation Security Agencies. With due respect to that office, I think he breached the protocol on national security. The letter is not about ‘ease of doing business’ but it is about a very high warning on threat to national security. It was not classified and it was online on public media.”
“Loading such sensitive information on the public media online could be a source of information to the enemy, jeopardize the national security we are planning to protect and prevent friendly foreign countries from sharing intelligence of interest with us.”
Ojikutu went back to memory lane describing a situation in the early 90s, how it was handled and its far-reaching effect on the country.
He said, “We had similar experience in 1993 when there was a clandestine interdiction of a fugitive by a combined effort of the FBI, SSS and the Military Airport Commandant at MMA Ikeja. The Minister of Information, went public with the press to say Nigeria helped the US to capture the fugitive. Unknown to him, he was exposing the country to terrorist attacks. In fact, it meant the first time Nigeria was on the Osama Bin Laden radar. That action was one of the reasons for suspending direct flight of the Nigerian Airways then to New York.”
“I believe such letter should, if it should emanate from the SGF’s office, it must be under the directive of the national security council and should have been directed to the Office of the NSA or to the Minister of State for Aviation and not directly to the agencies.”
He continued,”I am aware that the NSA chairs the Committee on National Aviation Security where all the heads of the security agencies mentioned in the letter are members. The revised letter, (Classified) from the NSA would have provided guidelines for the issuance of security directives or emergency amendments to all the agencies especially the NCAA to undertake extra security measures above the established baselines specified in the National Civil Aviation Security Programmes.”
Finally, he advised: “Key response to any terrorist attacks is pre-emptive and actionable intelligence in the defense layers. Regular or periodic background checks on all airport staff particularly the ground handling staff working in the airport security-controlled areas. The background checks or vetting must include airlines cabin and technical crew.”
“More importantly, the airlines must update their Advance Passengers Information Systems (APIS) to the Computer Advance Pre Passengers Screening Systems to select the non-regular travellers with the aim of identifying those that could be threats and those who could be risk to flights so as to put such passengers on ‘no fly list’
Loading sensitive information on national security online could jeopardise the national security. In future such information must not only be classified but must be on need to know.”