SECURITY challenges, especially those aimed at causing massive casualties in the aviation industry have become a reason to worry and experts are looking for countermeasures to combat these threats before they arise and wherever they do.It is against this backdrop that the aviation industry’s foremost think-tank, the Aviation round Table (ART) gathered like-minded stakeholders to deliberate on the security challenges at the country’s airports at a breakfast meeting with the theme: Aviation Security in the midst of Home Grown Terrorism.
Setting the tone for this quarter’s discussion, President of ART, Elder Gabriel Olowo in his welcome note decried with sadness the incessant stowaway cases recorded by the country stating that it shows a general lack in security.
According to the industry veteran, this security lapse portrayed by the stowaway cases affect a major sector like tourism which, in his opinion, is a faster way of getting out of the economic doldrums than agriculture which will do the same but take a longer time.
“For us to get out of recession the sure way is boosting our tourism and the one way to do that is to build linkages through aviation. Tourism can give us money just like that but agriculture takes time. And one thing hampering the growth of tourism is security. Even our neighbours in Ghana do not want to come and the security is not helping matters as our law enforcement are seen as security threats on their own.”
” I read with sadness on the incident of the stowaway on one of our airlines from Lagos to Johannesburg and let’s assume he is there to stowaway for greener pastures but on the alternative he could have been a terrorist and may have just planted something on any aircraft avionics and this shows how porous our security has been.”
In his presentation, the guest speaker, a Transportation Security Agency (TSA) Attaché of the United States Embassy in West African Region, Mr. Gary Pleus told the gathering that in the grand scheme of things security agencies must be on top of their game.
According to Pleus, security agencies must continue to get it right all the time because the terrorists only need to get it right once with devastating consequences as was seen in 9/11 which led to the birth of the TSA.
Pleus said that,” aviation is a primary target for terrorists, they only have to get it right once while we have to keep getting it right all the time. A single incident has high stakes from the economic consequences to the fear it will instil.”
He called on the gathering to be wary of threats from the landside as well as insider threats as some terrorist would seek the cooperation of aviation security to carry out their dastardly act.
He was also particularly interested in the new trend using improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) further stating that most terrorists have gone from trying to bomb aircraft mid-air to attacking terminals as was seen in Belgium and then Turkey.
“Apart from evolving new ways to take security unawares, they do not discard their old ways, these terrorists simply try to improve on it. It was after the attack on the terminal in Belgium that these groups evolved it yo carry a similar and deadly attack in Turkey.”
He however commended Nigeria stating that the country has seen the need to improve on security and is carrying out regular exercises to ensure their terminals are secure.
” kudos to Nigeria for trying to ensure they are prepared to handle this situation if it ever comes to that as most countries can take a cue and ensure that they safeguard the aviation industry.”