Premised on the outcome of the inaugural Aviation Security symposium organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada, The Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency(NAMA) Capt. Fola Akinkuotu said security of the country’s airports should be the concerns of every Nigerians irrespective of trade and background. Suleiman Idris captured the interview, Excerpts:
What will you term the idea aviation security being everybody’s business as been propounded in the new security lexicon?
Security, safety is everybody’s business. Too often, we have situations where everybody thinks “I am not the policeman, I am not the security person”. But, whatever affects your neighbour will affect you. So, it is in our combined interest that we will be interested in aviation security. Don’t let us forget that if you have a house and you have a neighbour, you can say, “my unit is isolated”. But an airplane, once that door closes, we are all in the same house. At 31, 35 or 41,000 feet, we are all in it together. It is said that “self-preservation is every man time motives”. I think that all of us should be interested in aviation security. The agency that is directly involve, like Aviation Security (AVSEC) in FAAN, you can say it is their responsibility. Yes, they (AVSEC) can sterilise a place at this moment but sterilisation like airworthiness, is only as good as a continuous monitoring and ensuring that the place is safe and secure. I try to compare it with an airworthiness of an airplane. The continuous airworthiness of an airplane operation is dependent on the operator. And the operator is not just one person but everybody that works for the operator. The continuous safe and secured environment is dependent on all of us who have anything to do with aviation, that is my overview when I said security is everybody’s business. It does not rest on one person’s head. I should be interested. I know that my agency, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), is not directly responsible agency but I have assets that need to be secured for us to be safe. If my Navigational Aids (NAVAIDS) are compromised, if my surveillance system is compromised, if my communication system is compromised, it is quite likely that it will impact on safety. So, even for us in NAMA, security is everybody’s business.
During the symposium, suggestions abounds on how ICAO member states should be unpredictable to mitigate against threats to aviation security. How do you think Nigeria can fare in this?
The concept of unpredictability is that you vary continuously how you monitor and detect or interact with the system, such that you are able to detect terrorist activities. What essentially unpredictability is that, the criminal can come up with different patterns. If they know your pattern, let us say hypothetically if they know that the facility is being swept at 12 mid night every day and don’t forget that criminals have sources of information just as security agencies. They may know that the place is being swept by 12 midnight and he wait till 1 and he comes in to commit the crime at 1 o’clock. For you to mitigate against such act, you vary your security methodology. Therefore, that is unpredictability. You sweep a place with Canine dog and people know the dog is used to sweep the place, they might do something to harm the dog. But instead of a dog, you are coming with 12 armed people. We as a country need to create pattern where the methodology of search, detection is not predictable. It is a way of confusing the criminals.
The place of human and technology in aviation security was a topical issue during discussions, how do we as a country improve on both?
Listening to different parties, on different thoughts on it, there are proponent of more technology but somebody said, “we do not need more technology, we need better technology”. My first acceptance is that we need better technology. And there are lots of emerging technologies. I also think about the French position. The French position emphasises that man is at the centre of all this. even with the inner-eye, the interpretation and the use of Inner-eye technology in ICTS Europe is by human. It is essential that we emphasise also on human intelligence. In every pattern of human endeavor, what has brought progress has always been man. There is need for us to get technology but also train our people, get them interested. Nothing beats human intelligence. You can have all sorts of security personnel at the airport, or at other places. They interact, they hear, they interpret. We take that on board as well as the use of technology. I believe it should be a kind of hybrid. Yes, we need to embrace new technology, but not at the expense of man.
How best do we fund Aviation Security?
I think we do have a security levy in place, we should maintain it. We should harness, harvest and utilise it. I do not think we should necessarily let it sit down. We should use it to guarantee the security of aviation system. There should be appropriate utilisation of such funds. I do not accept that we should stop it. We have seen in the world today that there will always be criminal activities. The criminal activities keep changing their patterns, they keep changing their methodology.We need to have means to detect, prevent criminal activities. Sometimes we might use the fund to educate not only the aviation security stakeholders but also the common people. If every village, every town realises that safety and security is everybody’s business and even the criminal begins to see that he has a stake in safety, maybe it can reduce or stop threats in the industry.
The future of aviation security was also a major topic during discussions, How do we treat the future of aviation security in Nigeria?
We should treat it with all seriousness. The spread and threat of every trend moves globally. Take music for example, has it not changed the world? Clothing, fashion have all changed everywhere. Why should we think that criminal tendencies in terrorism will be isolated? Many years ago, who would have thought of Boko Haram? But today it is a threat. As a growing person, what we saw was petty thieves, but things have changed.
Any other salient lessons learn that you are to back to Nigeria to teach others in the course of the symposium?
It has been good opportunity for me to be able to listen to other peoples’ concerns about aviation security, to hear about emerging technology. It is good for us to domesticate this type of concept. The agencies concern should bring all stakeholders to begin to look at these things. It is said that ‘Knowledge is power’. It is also good to introduce some of these things to our young people, who might start thinking of bright ideas and come up with software as well as hardware that might help in combating aviation security. We are not bereaved of knowledge and intelligence. Our people are highly intelligence. It is just for us to plant a seed of thinking in the right direction.