On May 18, 2017, the acting president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo signed the executive order on the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment.
He explained that it is the policy of the federal government to create an enabling environment for businesses and entrench measures and strategies aimed at promoting transparency and efficiency.
He added that the federal government was committed to the promotion of domestic and foreign investments, creation of employment and stimulation of the national economy.
He directed that “all relevant ministries, departments and agencies at the airports shall within 30 days of the issuance of this order merge their respective departure and arrival interfaces into a single customer interface, without prejudice to necessary back-end procedures.”
In compliance with the executive order, the agencies in the ministry of aviation, including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) began phased compliance with the order which has June 30, 2017 as the deadline.
FAAN began to implement the directive first by removing the multiple physical check tables as well as desks hitherto belonging to security agencies at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.
The agencies operating at the airport include the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Port Health Service, and the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and FAAN aviation security.
And to bring sanity to the airports, FAAN listed the six agencies approved to interface with passengers at the country’s airports. The agencies are NIS, NCS, NDLEA, SSS, Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit (EOD) and NAQS.
“As a result, the Authority has reconfigured the affected agencies’ orientation at the airports as follows: NIS and NDLEA will now operate at arrival and departure halls; NCS will operate at the arrival hall only; the SSS and NAQS will operate at the cargo terminals only, while the EOD will be operating at the baggage hall.
“FAAN hereby serves notice to airlines, passengers and the general public that in compliance with the provisions of the executive order recently approved by the presidency, only the listed security agencies have been given approval to interface with passengers at our terminals.
“Consequently, all agencies required by law to be on uniform while on duty must be fully kitted at all times with their name tags conspicuously visible and must remain within the confines of their responsibilities,” said FAAN.
FAAN’s managing director Mr. Saleh Dunoma said with the removal of the check tables the agency had begun the implementation of the executive order.
“The desks that have been there for manual search are no longer there. The checks are being done at appropriate locations and this has created a tidy hall. This has improved the ambience of the departure hall.
“We have asked the management of the airport to come up with a complete and comprehensive report with the issues emanating from this operation, so we can further proffer solutions. The whole terminal is very neat and tidy now,” he said.
He said the federal government’s executive order “has commenced at the country’s busiest airport,” and implored passengers to arrive at the terminal early enough because of the new arrangement.
“My advice to passengers is that they should come in good time, so they can accomplish the process as scheduled. There are some new locations and process of screening, so the earlier they come, the easier for stakeholders, especially the airlines and the security agencies, to finish their procedures”.
He said there would be no compromise with the procedures adding that whatever security procedure or security checks adopted would not be compromised
He also disclosed that the executive order does not give room for pre-checks on luggage.
“All checks should be done in designated areas. Luggage should not be checked at the departure hall,” he added.
On the sustainability of the order, Dunoma said: “Once it is implemented, it must be sustained; that is why everybody must own it. The agencies are sitting together now to make sure that they own the executive order.”
To speed up passenger facilitation at the airport, FAAN said it had ordered for more scanners.
It also carried out a trial run on astrophysics baggage scanner capable of detecting explosives, narcotics and other prohibited items either on hand or checked-in luggage.
Dunoma said the upgraded scanner is a boost to its (FAAN’s) safety and security programmes at the country’s airports.
“FAAN is committed to put all necessary measures in place in line with international aviation standards and recommended best practices to enhance safety and security at the airports,” he said.
Dunoma said FAAN was determined to ensure safety and security at airports as well as protect lives and provide machines that would be of immense benefits to the airlines and all its (FAAN’s) stakeholders.
“This scanner is intended to complement the executive order recently issued, by the acting president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and also assist the operations of other agencies at the airport and make them more efficient.
“Our intent is to deploy these scanners to our international airports but this depends on the outcome of its performance in Lagos,” he added.
However, FAAN’s acting general manager corporate affairs Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, said manual checks cannot not be completely done away with arguing that some countries do 20 per cent manual screening while some others do 10 per cent.
“Where you suspect anything, you can check manually; where there is need for a luggage to be checked manually, it has to be done in the baggage hall, but not in public,” she added.
Meanwhile, the managing director of Dana Air, Mr. Jacky Hathiramani, said the swiftness and commitment shown in the implementation of federal government’s order “is a welcome development and underscores…commitment towards creating a favorable environment for businesses, particularly local businesses to thrive, and promoting our made in Nigeria goods and services.’’
“Apart from the fact that aviation industry is critical to the economy of our nation, I believe the executive order will take away unnecessary bureaucracies at the airport, provide solutions to a lot of anomalies in the system and open a vista of opportunities not just in the aviation industry but all sectors of the economy.
However, some passengers who spoke to News Gazette in an interview believe that FAAN’s guise of sanitising the Lagos Airport following the executive order will soon be subsumed without traces by the deep ills plaguing the airport and others in the country.
“When the applause that greets the orderliness we see at the airport now recedes, and maybe, no one is looking, illegal activities will resume. The officer touts will resume work, extorting both in-bound and out-bound passengers; touts displaying on-duty cards and still working from rested airlines will be back to their duty posts hawking vaccination cards and undertaking ‘protocol’ responsibilities for a fee; airport rats will come out from the fissures of the baggage hall to feast on travellers’ luggage; the taxi operators will invade the arrival hall offering to take you to your destination for “small” money. All manner of illegalities will return to the facility.
“FAAN should not have waited for any executive order before putting things in order at the terminal. What has happened now is what passengers and aviation stakeholders have been talking about. Our problem has never been a short supply of laws or orders or directives; it has always been the lack of implementation of the laws, orders or directive,” said a passenger.
Another passenger said: “Although it took executive order to whip FAAN on, it is a good move. I pray it is sustained. And I pray they do the same thing at the bedlam called general aviation terminal at the domestic wing of the airport. There, it is hard to differentiate between the terminal building and the car park; everything is all topsy-turvy there,” said another passenger.
Dunoma said the Lagos Airport had been used to test the implementation of the executive order and reiterated that it would not only be replicated at the remaining airports but be sustained.
“Concentration is on the Lagos Airport because it is the key airport, due to its size, complexity and passenger traffic. If we get it right in Lagos, we will get it right in other airports. Once we do that, I believe all the other airports will be easy for us. “All participating agencies are ready to key into this big committee set up for the implementation. Everybody is contributing positively. From all indications, all hands are on deck to make sure the executive order is implemented successfully,” he added.