EVENTS of the last few weeks have in no small way diminished whatever illusion any right thinking Nigerian has that a vast majority of its public office holders, including the politicians, are prone to abuse of power once they get into office, including flout laws meant to safeguard the general citizenry.
The happenings at the nation’s airports, after reopening of domestic flights on July 8, 2020 have been most sickening to say the least given the fact that the world at large currently faces an existential threat in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) first in two separate occasions on Saturday, July 11, 2020 and Tuesday, July 14, 2020, drew the attention of Nigerians to the alleged rascally actions of both former governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari and governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri respectively.
The airport managers in a series of tweets through its official handle raised alarms for public good exposing both parties at the Aminu Kano International Airport and the Port Harcourt International Airport of flouting COVID-19 guidelines as well as alleged assault of officers carrying out their respective duties.
FAAN had in its statement noted that the infractions on the rules and guidelines for air passengers and airport users included the allegation that former governor Yari declined to adhere to the Port Health protocols and procedures.
While it alleged that the Governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, arrived at the Port Harcourt International Airport, in company of eight other passengers. He also fragrantly refused to observe the airport security and port health protocols while his entourage followed suit.
Aides to both Very Important Persons (VIPs) have come out to deny FAAN’s accusations; even terming the allegations a political witch hunt, to which FAAN maintained its stand that it raised an alarm for public good and has no personal issues with the dignitaries.
Three days after the Yari, Finiri debacle FAAN again announced the assault of an Aviation Security (AVSEC) staff by the head of the Directorate of State Security (DSS), Mr. Safiyanu Abba who stopped him from searching a visitor who walked through the metal detector activating the alarm at the international Terminal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja.
What is however worrying about this is that FAAN had announced that Mr. Abba deliberately obstructed airport security process and slapped an aviation security officer reason: the Aviation security had wanted to conduct further searching of a visitor who had just walked through the metal detector as activated the alarms.
A dangerous trend which if left unchecked speaks volumes on the security of the nation’s airports as terrorists have moved weapons and various kinds of explosives through various other airports and used such to blow up or terrorize airports and even hijack aircraft as it happened on Tuesday March 22, 2016 when bombs were detonated just seconds apart at opposite ends of the departures hall of departures hall at Brussels Zaventem Airport.
One also begins to wonder, who will prosecute top security agencies like the DSS head having allegedly been caught in the same laws he is empowered to uphold.
And like others, the DSS released a statement signed by Dr. Peter Afunayna denying FAAN’s claims saying “it has not been established that any FAAN staff was assaulted” and further claiming that its officers are well-mannered and not street brawlers. The statement however refused to address the bane which was if the DSS boss had allowed a visitor through security even after the metal detectors raised alarms?
However, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika during Presidential TASK Force on Covid-19 Briefing after the first two incidents stated that there will be a full investigation into the alleged violations with the aim of showing governments resolve to safeguard its citizen from the dreaded Covid-19 virus.
According to the minister, if found guilty of being unruly, the culprits may face jail terms not less than two (2) months.
He said investigations will commence as there are Close Circuit Televisions (CCTV) at the airports that would implicate or vindicate anyone. Further stating that If investigation is done and FAAN is wrong, the Industry will tender its unreserved apology but if they are found guilty of the crime of being unruly, the weight of the law will implemented.
The Civil Aviation Act Part 17. 97. 1 (c) categorically states that “unruly” refers to myriad of issues but in reference to the case reads: Fighting or other disorderly conduct on board an aircraft or at the terminal building; (e) Disobedience of lawful instructions issued by the aircraft commander, flight crew, cabin attendants, check-in staff and/or security screening staff;
Sirika however said if found guilty, the federal government will make a criminal referral to the Nigerian police who must prosecute and the penalty is a jail term of not less than two months.
“No one wants to be in jail even for a minute and the penalty says not less than two months and so it could be 10 years. So VIPs show you are truly VIPs and conduct yourselves in the manner that will be worthy of it… we have videos and we are investigating this. He said.
Even the Senate and the House of Representative Committees on Aviation have come out with strong statements suggest ban on travel by any government functionary who flouts the directives of airport usage especially during this outbreak but still declarations without power backing them makes little meaning to people who flout directives.
The truth is many Nigerians are not expecting much to come out of these myriads of executive recklessness by those who should be held accountable for its citizenry protection and FAAN is not a security outfit neither can it enforce certain laws but one can only hope that the President of this country backs the relevant agencies to do their jobs and curtail these trends.
Also Nigeria’s highly-placed are advised to drop their toga of recklessness at home or in their offices while coming to board flights at any airport for the safety of other travelers because these same people travel out of the country and behave like lambs to the rules anywhere they go, only to become wild animals in Nigeria.
These VIPs should also realise the fact that the airport workers working to keep the airports safe and secure during this pandemic are also professionals in their areas of calling in line with international civil aviation standard and recommended practices and therefore, should not be put under unnecessary pressure by law-breakers.
For FAAN, it is advised that once these incidents happen; apart from issuing these statements that name and shame these unruly perpetrators, they should back their statements with CCTV videos which are readily available at the nation’s gateway, that way the shameless denials when they come will be better thought out instead of the crass garbage Nigerians are meant to swallow as explanation.
Finally, government; particularly the executive arm needs to take these kinds of outlawed behaviour at the airport seriously because it is situations like these that attract the attention of international safety regulators like ICAO and the TSA which once they find you wanting downgrade your airports and puts certain blacklists on you security wise.
Government needs to show resolve and rein in its own before they embarrass the country so bad it loses all its certification, especially the much vaunted United states federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category One