By Ayoola Olaitan
Group Captain John Ojikutu (Rtd) is a former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. He also is the Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative and Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Securities. In this interview with MMS Plus newspaper, he speaks on a myriad of aviation sector issues and unveil how seamless screening and security operations can be achieved in the aviation industry. Excerpts:
How can Nigeria attain fast and seamless COVID-19 screening at the airports?
How do you want to have it have you got to any airport where you have a seamless process at this time. The aviation industry is just trying to see it as a process that must be placed within the medical system where there is no quicker way of doing it. If there is a quicker way of doing it, I am sure the aviation industry will also want to have something like that at airports and it needs be managed by the medical professionals.
Yeah, the Port Health is at the airports. Everything we are talking about now is the responsibility of the Port Health. Like you said, how we get the fastest way of security screenings at the airports. The people in charge of security must have equipment that will make the screening process fast. For Nigeria to have such the agency responsible must have a quicker way of going about the security checks and I don’t think such facility is available in any of the airports even in other developed countries.
How can passengers reduce time spent in getting their Covid-19 test as it a mandatory exercise that must be done?
I think the fastest you can get is to do your test and wait for your results after 48 hours. If it is that quicker and faster the waiting period will be reduced instead of the initial 48 hours it would have been reduced to maximum of 12 hours that is if there is a way that the Covid-19 test can be conducted at the airport which will enable you to have your result at least an hour before you board the aircraft.
The minimum flights outside which is about 10 hours, when they check you up at the airport it will be almost exactly the same when you are landing in New York or other cities your result will be available. So the system is there the result will come out within one hour or maximum 2 hours and it is going to last for next 12 hours which is the period of your flight lasted from Lagos to your destination.
However, since there is no such system it is going to take about two days which is why it is taking longer period before coming to the airport. On arrival for the test to be conducted a day is gone that why everything is put to 48 hours.
So, we do have that system that is quicker enough to give you a result within 12 hours. We don’t have it, it is when there is a system to give results in a quicker duration the airports authorities can say if you traveling tomorrow come to the airport a day before so that the test can be conducted same and result be ready same day before boarding the aircraft. But such system is not available and there is nowhere currently that such system is available in this country, I don’t know if it is available in America or anywhere in the world.
If such facility is available it will be in the airports like you go through your screening machine, in the airport what they check is your temperature. If you have malaria and you go to the airport you are not likely to travel because what they are checking is the temperature and the test results you bring which must have been two or three days earlier this are the two things they are comparing before you can go on board.
If there is a system that will test the Coronavirus within 12 hours it will be at the airport, which means if your flight is for 12 midnight by 10 am same day you can conduct your test and be at the airport, so by midnight when you boarding your result would have been ready and given to you but it quite unfortunate we don’t have such facility here. If such equipment is available, I am sure some airlines would want to buy it for themselves just like we have the secondary scanner for security checks used by airlines to screen passengers.
Meanwhile, we don’t have such equipment even America I don’t think they have that system.
Recently there have been decline in cases of the COVID-19. Do you think this is as a result of low testing?
How many people have they tested in the whole country not up to 100,000 people and that why the PTF said there is a decline in cases because there is low testing? The money they gave to them is finished; look at how much money was given to them and what was said to be the cost of testing people.
Speaking on the Security and technology deployed at the airports, Scanners, CCTV, etc. are available but there is what we call pre-passenger screening which requires intelligence. It is simply about getting information of people either through database before they get to the airport. All the terrorists today either Boko Haram or whatever how many of these people does the intelligence community have their information.
We need intelligence before talking about technology it is not everybody that can start talking about technology but there are basic intelligence mechanism that needs to be put in place because these terrorists needs to be identified especially those that are threat to aviation industry.
The industry needs human intelligence to be able to identify them and circulate information gotten about them to various operators at the airports and stakeholders. Such information must be digitalized in such a way that if such terrorists at the airport vicinity maybe in point of purchasing ticket such person information will pop up at that point to alert the airport authorities. If such person can’t be engaged by the ticket sales point there is what is known as no flight list which will flank the ticker not to sell ticket for such person until such person is arrested.
Also, we have another list known as the watch list where such person might not be a major threat but just keeping a watch on such person but those who are no flight list are seen as threat.
Recall, the Abu Murtala case in December 2009, he was on the list but he was not gotten here in Nigeria but was intercepted at the America airport because they knew he was on the watch list and they checked him but the airlines cleared him. As far as I am concerned it was God that intervened if not he would have blew up everybody.
Like I queried, how can a Nigerian travel to America without a box and he was traveling when Nigerian students were coming home he his traveling abroad and you don’t have his address, you can’t identify if he is based in Nigeria or abroad airline just cleared him because the airlines want to make money these are part of the things. It is one thing to have a security another is to have capable people working in the intelligence unit. If they are not capable they will serve as internal threat. The technology deployed by most countries is intelligence through their systems because they have your data and it been store on the database.