Why should aviation security personnel bear arms? People do not bear arms for the fun of it. When we talk of people bearing arms, they should be able to justify the reason why they want to do so.
The argument they want to present, one would want to listen to it. Growing insecurity is definitely one reason why someone could bear arms and in this case, it could be as a result of the threat posed by international terrorism.
If you go to the Heathrow International Airport, in the UK, it is usually when there are threats of an attack that you can see (security) people carrying arms.
If the request to allow airport security officials to bear arms is restricted only to the airport, it could be as a result of the proliferation of people bearing arms. The argument by the management of our airports may likely sail through because we have already abandoned the essence of bearing arms.
In those days, we did not have a police force, it was the Nigerian Police and when they started bearing arms that was when they changed it to the Nigeria Police Force.
And from the time they became the Police Force and started bearing arms, we are witnesses to the consequences of (irresponsible) handling of weapons.
What is involved goes beyond knowing how to fire a weapon, there is the issue of discipline that accompanies this responsibility.
In the military for example, soldiers are not supposed/ allowed to go home with their arms.
They draw arms from the armoury and they return them to the armoury at the end of the exercise or the purpose for which they drew arms. Every arm fired must be accounted for by making sure that each soldier defends the empty shell of any bullet fired. When the police started bearing arms, nobody accounts for bullets fired.
That marked the beginning of “accidental discharge” or miss-fire and the beginning of the extra-judicial shooting of citizens. Now, people see bearing arms as a means of intimidation. If they want to collect either bribe or money from anybody – when you see the person with a gun, you are bound to think twice before resisting such a person.
Many people have complained that people have been killed for refusing to give one thing or the other.
So, when you are talking of the people bearing arms at the airport, then they will refer to all other security outfits that bear arms and the risk they constitute to the public.
They will begin to argue that arming airport security officials may be a security risk around the airport environment.
- Capt. Dele Ore (Former President, Aviation Round Table)
It depends on the calibre of people that they are going to arm. It also depends on the kind of training and weapons that will be given to these officers. The most important thing, however, is the end result. I have this fear and what I’m afraid of is that they may end up using these weapons against one another.
This is because right there at our airports, these security officials are always engaged in one form of quarrel or the other. You see them quarreling among themselves more often than not. So, that is my fear. Today, it is either immigration personnel are taking issue with aviation security officers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
Tomorrow, it might be men from the customs service against the police or any other security agency.
There are a lot of things going on there and we don’t want it to degenerate into a shootout one day since everybody will now be armed. I know the plan is for them to be able to carry out their duties and perform better; especially when you consider the kind of security threats the aviation industry is dealing with across the globe. My only concern is whether there would be harmony among the security services operating around the airport when airport security officers begin to bear arms.
Will they not turn these arms against one another? I am very aware of the plan by the government to arm the AVSEC officers, but what I just told you are my fears concerning that development.
- Lekan Oketokun (Peace and Conflict Resolution expert)
The aviation sector is a very sensitive and critical one in global socio- economic and political development. The issue of security, therefore, cannot be over-emphasised.
In fact, security is the most important concern given the diverse nature of human activities that take place in the airport environment.
It is on this premise that l want to say yes to the idea of allowing aviation security personnel to bear arms.
This I believe will help them complement sister security organisations already operating within and around our airports.
Given the specter of terrorism and illicit trade in drugs and other trans-national crimes, some of which are perpetrated within airports, there is the need to further strengthen the security architecture at our various airports in line with global best practice.
However, these security personnel should be well trained, to be courteous and professionally minded in discharging the sensitive duty of providing all round protection that the aviation sector requires.
The security outfit should also be well funded and motivated to be able to discharge the onerous task of providing adequate security to all concerned.
- Onaghase Festus (Benin-based Travel Consultant)
I do not think that it is necessary. There are other security agencies that are armed; the police, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force are there. I think arming airport personnel will pose more threats because if they carry arms, they can shoot a passenger at the slightest provocation.
If there is any problem between the airport security personnel and a passenger, they should report to the police.
The airport personnel do not need arms because their jurisdiction is just within the airport. If there are potential security threats to the airport, there are core security agencies to handle them.
If you go to the developed countries, you will find their federal police at the airports, not airport personnel bearing arms; that is the standard practice.
The funds that would be used to train the airport security personnel to handle arms should be channelled into their welfare.
The funds can also be used to improve technology at the airports. If you visit the airports in developed countries, instead of staying in a queue, there are machines that can give you a boarding pass.
The funds could be used to bring in such machines. Our airports also require additional manpower that is better trained to handle the increasing number of air travellers.
- Abdullahi Jalo (Legal practitioner/former board member, Nigeria Railway Corporation)
I am a regular air traveller and apart from airport security officials, I see policemen, immigration, customs and NDLEA and other security officers who are already licensed to carry arms; operating in our airports.
I do not see the reason why more arms should be brought into our airports. I don’t think arming more people is the solution to security threats to our airports.
We should invest more in intelligence and technology which is the modern way of improving security.
If you look around now, you will see that even officials of the civil defence have been given guns; some are asking that the Federal Road Safety Corps officials should also be given guns.
I don’t think it is appropriate to begin to arm everybody who wears a uniform. It will be dangerous for our system.
Even if we will eventually give arms to aviation security officials, I think there should be proper orientation, training and periodic mental evaluation because our airports act as the point of first contact for foreigners visiting the country especially for the first time.