The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, has ordered the suspension of three top officials of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, over the recent incident involving Turkish Airlines at the airport.
Sirika disclosed this while briefing newsmen after listening to explanations by the airport officials on the incident on Sunday in Abuja.
He added that the ministry had also ordered thorough investigation to ascertain the cause of the breach, as well as why the airline brought in passengers without their luggage.
The suspended officials, according to him, are the Airport Manager, Terminal Manager and Head of Airport Security, who were ordered to handover to their next in rank pending the conclusion of the investigation.
The minister said the explanation by the officials of the airport that the security personnel on duty were overpowered was not acceptable, ordering for thorough investigation into the incident.
He stated that the actions of the passengers by forcing their ways into the tarmac and blocked the aircraft from taking off was a security breach which must not be condoned.
“There has been an unfortunate incident where some agitated passengers of the Turkish Airlines arrived without their luggage making them to force their way into the tarmac which is a breach of security.
“The explanation given is not satisfactory because the primary purpose of the government is to ensure safety of lives and property of its citizens.
“The cardinal objective of this administration is to secure the country and manage it and we cannot fail in aviation and we cannot fail in this important assignment at a very important point.
“We have ordered for the investigation into the matter immediately and all the people that are manning the various places; Airport Manager, Terminal Manager and Head of Security, should handover to the next man in rank pending the outcome of the investigation.
“As to the airline also, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has been ordered to find out what happened, how compliant they are and deal with it accordingly,’’ he said.
Sirika said the ministry was yet to get the flight manifest to be able to ascertain the number of passengers involved, which he added were many in number.
According to him, they got agitated and apparently they got access into the prohibited area because there was security lapse.
The minister stated that the nation’s aviation sector had the capacity to grow, adding that it was already showing signal that it could tremendously contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to him, aviation is carrying by value, 31 per cent of the world cargo which make it a very important industry as the fastest means of transportation more efficiently.
“With specific to Nigeria, you could see how we grew from Kano Airport where the first plane landed in the country to about 22 Federal Government owned airports plus several other private owned airports.
“On the whole, aviation I can say has grown to an appreciable level in the country and it has the capacity to grow more which is important to the economy of the country,’’ he said.
Sirika added that the country also had good manpower such as pilots and engineers to move the industry forward.
He disclosed that the government was determined to deliver a more vibrant and efficient aviation sector in 2016 by making safety, security and efficiency its watch word with regards to transportation.
According to the minister, once you are safe and secured in the industry, you have nearly achieved 100 per cent of what you are meant to achieve.
“It is not about the beauty of the airports or planting flowers or other vanities, it is about safety, security and efficiency as far as aviation is concerned,’’ he said.
Earlier, Mr Bashir Hausawa, Acting Head of Security, explained to the minister that the security personnel were overpowered by the angry passengers over the non-arrival of their luggage.
Hausawa added that the shortage of manpower was responsible for the incident, adding that there was only one man manning luggage area of the airport during the incident.
He said they were 192 security men manning the whole of the airport resulting in the shortage of manpower distribution to various units of the airport.