Inadequate perimeter fencing and attendant safety concerns were yesterday blamed for the current restrictions of commercial flight operations into the new Bayelsa airport in Bayelsa State. The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said the N60 billion worth of facility would continue to remain closed until the State government complies with standard rules on security and safety.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations mandate standard airports to have both perimeter and security fences. ICAO annex 14 sees to perimeter fence, while annex 17 has provisions for a security fence. The Bayelsa State government opened the new airport in February 2019 with the hope of attracting both regional and international flights. But since the commemoration, the facility has remained closed to commercial operations.
The acting Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Abdullahi Sidi, yesterday confirmed that the airport falls below the security and safety standard, and explains why the airport was denied certification. Sidi said once the state government erects the perimeter fence, the NCAA would not hesitate to issue it certificate for commencement of operations. He said: “Perimeter fencing is number one requirement for any airport, and that is safety issue. Someone said the government has done about 60 percent of the perimeter fencing and said the other side of the airport is creek, but I said that is not acceptable to the aviation industry.
“That perimeter fencing is the only thing remaining for Bayelsa Airport. There is no politics about it. That is the requirement. And anything security is taken seriously. It is a security issue. If we need to close an airport because of security issue, we will close it until they comply,” Sidi said.
The acting DG, who recently came on board, commended the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for providing quality security systems at the nation’s airports, particularly the international aerodromes. He noted that despite some of the operational challenges at the airports, the major aerodromes in Lagos and Abuja had continued to receive high ratings in the area of security in international community.
He said Lagos and Abuja airports had consistently scored over 90 percent in international security audits, and a good advertisement of the Federal Government’s focus on security and safety of the aerodromes.Without the high-security networks in Nigerian airports, Sidi explained, Delta airlines would have ceased operations in Nigeria. He said: “Inasmuch as we have some minor security issues, Nigeria airports especially the Lagos and Abuja, security-wise, we have achieved 96 percent of the International Security Audit. If you remember, not long ago, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, received ICAO certificate for achieving very high security standards at our airports.
“Every airport must have what is called perimeter fencing, which could be solid wall with a buffer and sharp fence to stop pilfering into the airport environment. Also, we have what we called the airside and the passenger side of an airport. The airside is supposed to be much more secured than the passenger side. I am happy to tell you that even the passenger side has Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras.”Sidi, however, noted that some of the security challenges in the country’s aviation industry were not peculiar to Nigeria alone, stressing that each country had its own security challenges that it battles. Aviation Security Consultant, Group. Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) said it was important to ensure that airports nationwide comply with the standard regulations on safety and security.
Ojikutu said: “I have always said that we do not have security fences in most of our airports. We have perimeter fences but definitely not security fence and the people in NCAA and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) know the difference between the two. Those of us within know that security falls under the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Annex 17 and perimeter falls under Annex 14.”