Local airlines are considering temporary suspension of flight operations to and fro the volatile Kaduna International Airport following the terrorists’ siege at the weekend.
The operators, who are putting safety ahead of business consideration, said uncertainties in the northern axis have made commercial flight operations most risky.
About 200 gunmen on Saturday staged an attack on Kaduna International Airport, Kaduna, killing an official of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and disrupting flight services for hours.
The invasion, from the runway end of the airport, was repelled by the military, though it threw the airport in disarray and an Azman Air airplane was unable to take off due to sporadic gun battle around the aerodrome.
As at yesterday, The Guardian learnt Azman has suspended operations into the Kaduna Airport, pending the complete ease of tension in the troubled state.
The Chief Operating Officer of one of the airlines said two carriers managed to escape the attack in the “red zone”.
“That is a sufficient red flag for aviation. The assurance of the authorities that normalcy has been restored is difficult to rely on. Remember that about a year ago, the same bandits attacked staff quarters of aviation agencies at the same Kaduna airport. Now, they (bandits) are more daring with the invasion of the airside. That is a big risk that I don’t think any airline should undertake for now. So, if airlines are pulling out of Kaduna, you cannot blame them. Better be safe than be sorry,” he said.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) reassured a combined team of anti-banditry military personnel and the crime investigation unit of the FAAN Aviation Security Department to forestall another onslaught on the airport.
Acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, said: “Normalcy has since been restored at the airport. The team also recovered two motorbikes abandoned by the bandits.
“Additionally, a heavy reinforcement team from the Nigerian Defence Academy is on the ground to ensure the safety and security of airport workers and users. The FAAN AVSEC Department has equally released operational vehicles to the team for patrol purposes,” Hope-Ivbaze assured.
Aviation security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the security breach was unfortunate, and it again signposts the volatile nature of aerodromes nationwide, coupled with attendant negligence of regulatory protocol.
Ojikutu noted that Airports Security is not about Kaduna airport alone but every airport that is located within urban development areas and with complicated urban road networks, especially Lagos, Benin, Enugu, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Calabar, and so on.
“I have said it before; who is watching over these areas of our economic importance? Aviation Security is a function of national security and intelligence is the first layer of the six layers of Aviation Security. How does FAAN get intelligence? Only from the NCAA, which should be a member of the National Aviation Security Committee as demanded by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Do we have one? Ask the NCAA.
“After the first attempt last year, the NCAA needed to have asked FAAN to review the Kaduna Airport Security Programme for review or release an Administrative Directive to FAAN to review the Security Programmes of all airports that could be targeted by the hoodlums or bandits while the NCAA itself would review the National Civil Aviation Security Process (NCASP). There is a lot to do on AVSEC at our airports with multiple security agencies operating at different levels of the airport defence layers without a unified control,” Ojikutu said.