The Federal Government says plans are underway to transform the Aviation Security (AVSEC) of FAAN into something akin to the United States Transport Security Administration (TSA) as the approval has been given for that.
Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation, who disclosed this at the presentation of Aviation Road Map to stakeholders in Lagos on Saturday, said the officers would begin to carry guns, teargas, dogs and other apparatus in a bid to effectively carry out their functions at airports.
“Our aviation security is laughable and we now have approval to reposition the AVSEC to take the shape of the TSA of the USA, fully-kitted, well-trained, well-educated with firearms.
“We have the approval and have gone to the Ministry of Interior to enquire what is needed, we are engaging them in an inter-ministerial capacity and when we iron it all out, you will see the changes,” he said.
Also, the Federal Government has deployed about N1 billion to urgently rehabilitate the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport runway, and has set up a committee to oversee the restoration work, the minister said.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said the runway had been in bad state due to overutilisation, so it needed total overhaul and there was effort to build another runway as alternative to the existing one that has been overstretched.
Informed source from FAAN said the committee was expected to schedule the maintenance dates, expected to run from days to weeks, and was expected to also decide whether the runway would be closed daily or some hours of the day so that work could start on the facility.
The minister has already designated Kaduna Airport as alternative to Abuja so that flights would be diverted to Kaduna while work was going on at the nation’s second busiest airport.
Inside source also disclosed that the work was already advertised and Gilmore, Julius Berger and PW had bided for the project.
“Government is making urgent effort to start the rehabilitation of the runway at the Abuja airport and government has provided funds for the work, which could start anytime from now. The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had set up a committee about six weeks ago to oversee the rehabilitation, determine the dates and decide whether the airport would be closed for the period of restoration or choose to close it, for example, from 1am to 6am every day so that the airport could be operated part of the day,” the source said.
Speaking on the ongoing restructuring at FAAN, he said the exercise was far from over, adding that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) were next.
Already, government has started redeploying, re-assigning, demoting and even terminating appointments of staff in what it calls improper placement of staff at these agencies, especially in FAAN where the workers have felt the full positive impact of the restructuring.
According to Sirika, the restructuring became imperative because of the top-heaviness in these agencies with a combined total of 88 general managers on grade level 17 and above on the payroll especially those unqualified as.
He said that government was handling the restructuring in phases and this will go around leaving a leaner and more effective agency instead of the over-bloated workforce that has provided little or no impact in the system.
Sirika stated that the Chinese funded terminal was not a concession or Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) but a loan, stating that both were not contradicting the same purpose.
“The Chinese terminals are not BOTs. It was a loan of which the Chinese provided $500million and Nigeria provided $100million counterpart funding. Even at that the biggest of those terminals will be doing 1.5million passengers annually but what we are looking at is different and larger.
“The terminals were done,’ kudos to the originators’ to the best of their thinking, but the one in Abuja, we will have to move it as it is blocking the control tower and the fire service. But we already are building and we have to put it to use. The same story in Lagos too, ” he said.
He said government after this, would spend nothing less than $30million dollars to move the fire service and another $40million to move the control tower and this is not economical.
He added further that the planned concession if done transparently, real and genuinely with stakeholders’ buy-in will work and that as a minister he has an open door policy and was willing to trade ideas to improve the plans and make it better.
He further went on to declare that if anyone takes advantage of the concession for personal gain that he should be held responsible as the bulk lies on his table.