Local airlines may stop flying to North
Domestic airlines operating flights into Kano, Maiduguri, Yola and other volatile cities the North are currently carrying out safety and security audits of their operations to determine whether they should continue flying to the cities or not.
The development came a few months after some of the domestic carriers cancelled night-stops for their crew and aircraft in extremely volatile northern cities, especially Maiduguri.
The latest security and safety audits, which started some days ago, it was learnt, followed the bombing of a motor park in Kano on Sunday, which left about 75 people dead as at the last count.
Currently, airlines that fly into the key northern cities are IRS, Aerocontractors, Arik, Chanchangi and Medview.
The Director of Flight Operations of one of the airlines flying into the northern cities said the carrier had on Tuesday dispatched two separate teams of officials from its safety and security departments to Kano and other cities in the North to ascertain if the airline would need to continue its flight operations into the volatile cities or not.
According to the official, domestic airlines had a year ago carried out similar security and safety audits in the height of attacks from the deadly Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
Sources familiar with the situation said virtually all the concerned airlines were already re-examining their operations into the volatile northern cities.
The sources said the airlines believed they needed to review their operations into the cities as the suicide bomb blasts at an inter-state commercial bus park in Sabon-Gari area of Kano showed that air transport could also be a target of the deadly Islamic group.
The blasts, which also injured scores of passengers, drivers, hawkers and visitors, destroyed five luxury passenger buses.
A Marcopolo bus belonging to Gobison Motors had on board over 70 passengers when it was attacked by the suicide bombers just as it was about departing the busy park for Lagos, it was learnt.
Aviation security consultant and former Military Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu, (retd), said the domestic airlines were reacting rather late to the potential threat posed by the activities of Boko Haram to the aviation sector.
He said airlines should have carried out such security and safety review and audit of their operations to the North long before the latest deadly bombing in Kano.
Ojikutu said, “The airlines are starting too late. Aviation and airliners are targets of terrorists. I mentioned it a year ago. All the domestic airlines need to review their security programmes to see if they can sustain the present threat. I have seen that the security programme they have cannot sustain the threat.
“Airlines need to establish a list of their frequently travelled passengers so that it will make it easy for them to sort out non-frequently travelled passengers. The airlines need to come with a Computer Assisted Pre-Passenger Screening that will help them identify passengers who they need to carry out enhanced screening on.
“Also, government needs to come up with a list of people that are threats to civil aviation. Government can then circulate the list internally through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to the airlines.”
However, a top official of one of the airlines flying to the North told our correspondent on Thursday that the carrier would continue flying to the region as preliminary findings from the safety and security audits of its operations in volatile northern cities, especially Kano, revealed that certain security measures that could prevent attacks from the Boko Haram sect and other insurgent groups were in place.
“Along the road leading to the Kano airport, there are several security checks at the moment. And within the Kano airport, certain security checks have been put in place by the government,” he said.