To scale up security at the nation’s aiports, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved aviation security personnel to carry arms.
The development is fashioned after the Transportation Security Administration, TSA of the United States, where K-9 dogs, handcuffs, batons and light weapons are deployed.
Meantime, the Federal Government is also not going back on the planned shutting down of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for six weeks for turn-around maintenance that would last for for six months.
Alternatively, it has resorted to using Kaduna airport which it said is currently undoing renovation for the purpose.
The government also said it will establish a national carrier for the country, saying that the population of Nigerians is a persuasive factor.
Government spoke on a day the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved N4.6 billion for the procurement of fire fighting equipment for Federal Fire Service across the country.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who briefed State House Correspondents alongside the Minister of Interior, Abduraman Dambazzua and the Special Adviser to President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, after, yesterday, meeting of FEC presided over by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja gave details of the packages.
He said that the Ministry of Interior would be partnering the aviation sector for the protection of the airports.
Sirika did not, however, state when it will kick off, saying that a stakeholders’ meeting was underway today , to consider all factors, including the time-frame for the Abuja airport maintenance.
He said: “We are very serious about aviation security. Just last week, the President approved that aviation security should bear arms. So, we are trying to make them take the form and shape of Transportation Security Administration, TSA of the US with K-9 dogs, handcuffs, guards, batons, light weapons, among others.
“The Minister of Interior is helping us in that regard with the directive of the President. They are partnering us to keep our airports secure. All these will be unveiled at the next stakeholders meeting.”
On temporary closure of Abuja airport
Sirika disclosed that renovating Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja at this time was necessary as it had been over-stretched already.
According to him, the project would gulp up to N1.1 billion, stressing that it was initially planned for N500 million but the time lag and the exchange rate affected it.
He said: “FEC has approved the completion of Kaduna terminal building. It was awarded in 2011 and commenced in 2012. During the rehabilitation of the terminal building, a contractor noticed some structural damages to the building itself and then increased the scope of what to be done to put it to use and that necessitated the variation of contract sum.
“The cost of variation is in excess of 15 percent. It had to go to the then President Goodluck Jonathan for approval anticipation, that was approved and they went to BPP. So we brought it to council today to ratify and of course taking into cognizance the exchange rate and inflation that has increased the cost of completion of the terminal building.
“Council has approved the completion of that terminal building and it will be completed in six months. The contractor has accepted to work within that six months.”
Consideration for VIPs in Abuja airport
“The airport will be totally closed for six weeks. The construction and rehabilitation works is for six months. Within the six months there is a window of six weeks that the airport will be closed.
“It is important we inform Nigerians that whether we shut down now or not, the runway is on its way to shutting down itself. We are all witnesses to how Port Harcourt shut itself. The PH runway was folding like mat.”
“It was caving like deep gully erosion and FAAN was busy patching until one night it caved in and Air France landed, it destroyed their landing gear and busted their tyres and after the repairs the airport was closed for two and a half years until recently.”