AVIATION industry watchers have expressed fear over the recent clearance the Nigerian government has given to two Sudanese airlines who have just been given landing rights at the Aminu Kano International Airport.
Yesterday, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), authorised Sudan Airways and Sun Air Aviation to start flying into Nigeria. Their approval is part of a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (Basa) between both countries that allows Nigerian airlines Kabo Air and Skypower Express, to also operate between the Sudanese city of Umm Badr and Kano in Nigeria.
However, the signing of the agreement has raised eyebrows, especially as it us coming it happening just 20 years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US by al-Qaeda. Festus Adeboye, a former chief security officer at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, said the NCAA should have considered the security implication of designating two Sudanese airlines to operate in Nigeria.
He said the threat might not be directly on aviation but on the country because currently, Nigeria is going through a security crisis that could be exacerbated by further influx of arms from Sudan. In addition, the former security official added that the move would allow people to slip out of the country unnoticed.
Mr Adeboye said: “Our regulatory body ought to have considered the security implication of that decision. They should know the security undertone of designating two Sudanese airlines to Nigeria but maybe the NCAA may have made recommendations against it and the federal government decided to suppress it.
“They can bring arms to the country through porous security system. Why are the airlines not coming to Lagos, which has all the security apparatus? United Nations airport security personnel and the US Transport Security Administration visit and inspect Lagos airport regularly but a lot of things can be hidden at the Kano airport.
“Maybe this is to help those from northern Nigeria who sneak out of the country for medical services through Arab countries to Germany to avoid publicity. They don’t want the people to know their health status, so with Sudanese airlines, it will be very easy to do that.”
However, Group Captain John Ojikutu, the chief executive of Centurion Securities and the secretary general of the Aviation Round Table, said that Sudan and Nigeria have had a long Basa relationship, so resuming air links between the two African states should be nothing to worry about. He did, however, point out that the possibility of similar 9/11 attacks in Nigeria is real because there is lack of coordination among security operatives at the airports.
Group Captain Ojikutu said: “Sudan has been one of the countries we have in our Basas and like the Saudi Air, they have been flying to Kano in the days of Nigeria Airways. They went underground like the Nigeria Airways did, so if they have decided to begin operations as we are planning to, it will be wrong for us to stop them if there is no strain in our diplomatic relationship.
“Although there had been no direct reported attacks of bombing on Nigerian airports, the possibility of such attacks is real if one considers the multilateral layers of security agencies at our airports working independently of one another without coordinated effective authority. The set-up of the security system at the Nigerian airports today is a challenge to the national security and are still not different from the set up at the US airports before the 9/11 attack.”