The authorities should ensure that the airports are safe and secure
In yet another disgraceful breach of security to score cheap political point, loyalists and supporters of the former governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamakko last Friday invaded the restricted area and the runway of the Sultan Abubakar 111 International Airport, Sokoto. Video evidence now in circulation reveals that the safety of aircraft that brought Wamakko, currently a senator representing Sokoto North, was also threatened as the pilot of the flight had to take protective measures by not landing at the apron of the airport which was already crowded by supporters.
Immediately the aircraft landed, supporters of the politician, including hundreds on motorbike riders had already forced their way into the runway, speeding freely towards the aircraft that was taxing to the tarmac. More troubling is that Wamakko’s supporters were allowed the security breach for his homecoming by the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to which he belongs, following the defection from the party to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by Governor Aminu Tambuwal.
This is condemnable as it reveals the extent that the security agencies in the country have been compromised by political partisanship. This is not the first time political supporters have invaded the airside of the airports in Nigeria. During the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, supporters of the present governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and that of his political rival, the current Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi had on several occasions invaded the airside of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa during the build-up to the 2015 election.
From the easy access of the political supporters to the airside of the Sokoto airport, it is obvious that the facility is not fully protected. Yet after the September 11 attacks in 2001 in the United States of America, it became the standard of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that every airport should have both security and perimeter fences. What any easy access of unwanted persons to the restricted areas of the airport indicates is that such airports are not secure and are exposed to breaches which could be dangerous for passengers.
We are aware that the Sokoto airport has some peculiarities that make it susceptible to such invasion. That explains why Wamakko’s supporters could easily push down part of the fence to gain entry to the airside of the airport despite the presence of about 30 security personnel from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Aviation Security (AVSEC). But this penchant to invade airports by political supporters has become a national security problem which must be tackled decisively in order to avert possible disaster in future.