…As Demuren Describes Christmas Day, 2009 Saddest Day Of His Life
The former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Dr. Harold Demuren has stated that the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound United States airline’s aircraft Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian underwear bomber as the saddest day of his life as the helmsman in the regulatory agency.
This is just as the Nigerian aviation stakeholders have called on all security agencies to synergise to avoid terrorist attack in the sector.
They, however, agreed that the sector is still safe for flight operations.
Demuren spoke at the Second 2022 Breakfast Business Meeting organised by Aviation Round Table (ART) in Lagos today, Thursday with the theme, ‘Perspective in Multi-Layer Aviation Security System and Passenger Facilitation.’
Demuren who was the Director-General of NCAA when the under-pant bomber attempted to blow up an American airline said that his attention was drawn to the December 25, 2009 incident by the Minister of Aviation from December 17, 2008 till March 2010, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba
He said that Omotoba woke him up in the middle of the night to break the incident to him, but noted that the installation of modern equipment at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, revealed the entire activities of Abdulmutallab at the airport to the security team.
Demuren explained that the Closed Circuit Television Camera (CCTV) footage provided by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at the airport, extricated Nigeria from complacency in the heinous crime.
The former NCAA boss said that Nigeria was able to provide all the necessary documents as requested by the US, which led to the removal of Nigeria among the blacklisted countries by the US.
He pointed out that that singular act led to improvement of security at all the nation’s airports, especially the international aerodromes, adding that the security layers in Nigeria were increased from seven to 20 by the US.
He stated that despite the fact that prior to the incident, the father of Abdulmutallab had informed the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) of the radicalisation of his son, instead of such information to be shared among the various security agencies, the security outfit refused to act.
He called for cooperation and collaboration among the security agencies in the sector for an improved security system.
“Up to the 1980s, there were no major aviation security challenges in Africa. Then came the 1993 Nigerian Airways Hijack (Lagos-Abuja Flight, diverted to Niamey, Niger Republic). After this was the 9/11 attack in the US, which changed the face of aviation security in the world. Layers upon layers of security were introduced in the US.
“In Nigeria, we had the Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab 2010 failed bomb attempt on KLM/NorthWest Airline. After this incident, the NCAA ordered enhanced multi-layered security measures at our airports, including body scanners.
“The Abdulmutallab incident was the saddest day of my life as the DG NCAA. I was woken up in the middle of the night by the Minister of Aviation who told me to go and watch the news. It was all over the news that a Nigerian wanted to kill Americans, but the CCTV footage saved us. When we were asked to provide our evidence, we were able to show it to the US and what we had then, some big aviation countries didn’t have them.”
He appreciated the contributions of the various agencies at the airport, particularly FAAN for providing the CCTV footage.
The Nigerian Immigration Service(NIS), he revealed, provided detailed entry and exit from the airport and the MAVIS for providing the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) information and others.
He disclosed that these were parts of the information NCAA used to remove Nigeria’s name from the ‘US Country of Interest Watch list.
Earlier, the President, ART, Dr. Gabriel Olowo, said that in view of the deterioration of security and challenges in Nigeria on farmlands, religious places, roads, and rail transportation, it was pertinent for the group to continue to discuss the security situation in the industry.
Olowo pointed out that the various communiqués arising from the past breakfast meetings of ART were not implemented by the government, but insisted that would deter the body from continuing to propagate safety and security in the sector.
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Security, Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu (retd) in his presentation, ‘Civil Aviation Security Defence Layers and Airport Passengers’ Facilitation,’ also said that the Abdulmutallab incident led to increased security apparatus in the industry in Nigeria.
He took a swipe at the multiple security desks in the sector, warning that it was discouraging travellers and investors into the country.
Ojikutu said that there were some lapses in the profiling of Abdulmutallab by the various bodies such as the Department of State Security (DSS) Immigration, Aviation Security (AVSEC) and even the airlines.
Presenting a paper titled, “Addressing the Challenges of Passenger Facilitation Process in the Aviation Security Regime” a security expert, Mr. Ayo Obilana,explained that in the US, there are only five security checkpoints; three in arrival and two at departure.
He said that in Nigeria, the reverse is the case as there are no fewer than 20 security checks at arrival and departure, describing the security system in the country as analogue operations.
According to him, “This for me is known as analog operations known as bank cheque book mentality.”