Towards curbing stowaways at Lagos Airport
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) command at the Muritala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), while giving account of its activities last year, announced that 17 stowaways were recorded at the airport between January and December 2014, while only one has been recorded so far in the year.
The figures quoted by the Immigration officer brought to fore the necessity for more security for both wings of the airport to reduce the stowaway rate.
Immigration officials flaunted the fact that only one has been recorded so far this year as showing significant improvement in the security measures at the airport. However, another stowaway was arrested recently at the second local wing (MMA2) of the Lagos airport after that disclosure.
The latest stowaway was hiding in the tyre compartment of a Lagos-Ghana-bound aircraft belonging to MedView Airline. The plane was ready to taxi from the private terminal before the pilot sighted the culprit, who was identified as Festus Chikelube, 24, and handed over to the security agencies.
The suspect reportedly confessed to the act, saying he had been sleeping around the airport for two weeks perfecting his plan. He said the search for greener pastures pushed him to the act.
Apart from Chikelube’s case, stowaways had been arrested in the past from Delta Airlines, Arik Air and other airlines, a development which analysts say reflect the porous state of security at the airport. The airport terminal is expected to be a highly restricted area in the airport. So despite heavy security presence of the Aviation Security (AVSEC) officials, the police, State Security Service (SSS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) operatives and other paramilitary agencies, many observers wonder why stowaways could be beating the security network to gain access to the terminal.
Experts blame the development on lack of a solid perimeter fencing at most of the airports, which, they argue, exposes the terminals to intrusion by unauthorized people. Speaking with our correspondent, an aviation expert and Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Alpha First Aviation School, Elder Soji Amusan, said there is the need to have a solid perimeter fencing on all airports in Nigeria to guide against stowaways and even grazing.
Amusan argued, “There is loose security at the airports in Nigeria. There is no solid perimeter fencing in most airports in the country. Lack of perimeter fencing allowed grazing by the runway of some of our airports. For example, in 2005 an Air France flight crashed on cows on the runway of Port Harcourt International Airport, killing seven of them and damaging the landing gear of the aeroplane. All kinds of people are found at the airports due to loose security.”
Experts, pointing at daily increase in air passenger traffic at the Lagos airport, according to recent statistics released by the Immigration, warn that the stowaway problem poses a great challenge to aviation agencies.
The Comptroller of Immigration at the Lagos airport command, Mrs. Chizoba Dibi, disclosed that in 2014, the command successfully processed 1,294,010 arrivals and 1,491,448 departures, while from January and August 2015, 665,450 and 755,817 passengers had arrived and departed the airport respectively.
From left: Head, High Value Events and Sponsorship, Etisalat Nigeria, Modupe Thani; Director, Brands and Communications, Denloye Enitan; Director, Lagos Photo Festival, Azu Nwagbogu; Chief Marketing Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Francesco Angelo; and Brand Director, Lagos Photo Festival, Wunika Mukan, at the press conference to announce the forthcoming 2015 Lagos Photo Festival in Lagos yesterday. PHOTO: BENEDICT UWALAKA.