In adherence to the International Air Transport Association’s ban on toxic materials and the criminality of drug peddling through airports by unsuspecting passengers, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has vowed to tighten all loose ends at the nation’s international airports to checkmate such incidences.

Engr. Saleh Dunoma
Engr. Saleh Dunoma

The Managing Director, Engr. Saleh Dunoma, FAAN, told members of the League of Aviation and Airport Correspondents (LAAC) at a Gateway Forum organized by the League recently that the agency has initiated stringent measures to mitigate criminal activities such as drug peddling and baggage hole theft, among others.

One of the plans, according to him, is to replace baggage scanning machines at the international airports with sophisticated ones that can detect anything during screening of passengers for takeoff.

“We are going to acquire new technology of scanners that can detect anything. The machine is currently being tested and waiting certification for use in airports. We do not have it here now, but the ones we have now are still very useful. We also have hand-held detectors which we are using, and we are going to acquire the new technology for efficiency,” Dunoma said.

Reacting to a recent arrest of two Mozambique nationals who were in possession of 7.2 kilograms of methaphitamine and ephedrine at the MMIA by FAAN’s Aviation Security personnel in collaboration with operatives s of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Dunoma said the arrest proved that the machines were still functional, even though complemented by the skills of the AVSEC officials.

“The scanners we are using now can only detect any suspicious material in a baggage during screening. And if the operator is not satisfied, he will do manual checking of the baggage.  If he is satisfied, he will allow it to pass. So it was by manual checking that the drugs were discovered, based on what the scanner displayed on the screen,” he said.

The FAAN boss also disclosed that the agency had awarded two contracts already – at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport , Abuja — for the installation of Close Circuit Television, CCTV to monitor movement of airport users, especially at the airside.

The projects, according to him, are at the stage of completion, and should be commissioned for use in few months’ time.

“Passengers can sit down and watch what is happening on the airside and around them. This will help very much to monitor what is going on the runway and airside.

“We’ll also install a mobile technology that can see up to seven kilometers. If you try to penetrate unlawful, the surveillance system will detect it. By the time all the technologies are put in place security will be water-tight,” he said.

Responding on why the new terminal buildings at the international airports haven’t been completed, Dunoma said assured that the contractor will finish its job before June this year, after which they will be commissioned for use.

According to him, the construction work has had some hitches resulting from the rise of exchange rate, which has overshot the agreed amount for the contracts.

He noted that the exchange rate was N165 to one Dollar when the contracts were awarded, but eventually rose close to N500 to one Dollar before coming down to N365, and still not stable.

The rise and fall of exchange rate, according to him, had slowed the pace of work due to inconsistent financial remittances, though the contractor did not stop work, which is why the projects are at 80 per cent completion.

“We have gone far with work and by mid-year, the terminals will be delivered, especially Lagos and Abuja. If you have visited Abuja of late, you will discover that everything is near completion, even the avio-bridges are there now. In fact, all that is left are the fittings and all those materials needed are on ground waiting to be fixed,” Dunoma said.

He said the Abuja airport terminal would be synchronized with the light rail being constructed at the airport, adding that during a visit of the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, it was agreed that the contractor expedite action on the work.