Center for Strategic Decision Research


Fostering Aviation Security and Safety in Africa Through Infrastructure Development

Dr. Kema Chikwe
Minister of Aviation of Nigeria


I was delighted when I received the invitation to address the International Workshop on Global Security and the War Against Terrorism. Quite naturally, I looked forward to participating in this workshop because the issue of global security has become more topical and a source of greater concern to the entire world since the tragic events of September 11. Those events are of particular significance to the aviation industry because the very equipment that gives aviation its unique identity as a means of moving people, goods, and services and for achieving social integration was employed as a weapon of mass destruction. However, the entire world's reaction to the September 11 events has shown that all nations can rise, mobilize, and act in unison to tackle any issue that poses a threat to humanity. It is indeed a fact that the new challenges to global security go far beyond what government, industry, or any single segment of our global society can resolve alone. 

Because I oversee the aviation industry in Nigeria, I have chosen to discuss global security and the war against terrorism from the aviation perspective. Specifically, I would like to share my thoughts with you on the issue of fostering aviation security and safety in Africa through infrastructure development. 

Since September 9, 1949, when a bomb exploded in a forward baggage compartment of a Quebec Airways (Canadian Pacific) DC-3 aircraft, killing 23 people, the aviation industry has experienced various forms of terrorism. These acts have included airplane bombings, hijacking, suicides, sabotage, and airport bombings and shootings. However, the terrorism witnessed by the world on September 11, 2001 took a form and had a scope unprecedented in history, and was previously nearly unimaginable. 

Since September 11, an important fact about terrorism has emerged: though the act took place in the United States, its planning, coordination, and execution involved an international network of terrorists scattered across all continents of the world. In his statement on September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush said, "There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries." The war on terrorism must therefore be fought on a global scale, with all countries joining hands. 


In all countries of the world, including Nigeria, strategies and measures were immediately designed and implemented in response to the global challenge of September 11. Happily, the 33rd Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was held shortly after the events. All 168 member-states that attended the assembly condemned the acts in their entirety. A resolution, Resolution A 33-1, was also passed to strengthen security in all countries. Ministers from the member-states later met in Montreal and endorsed a global strategy for strengthening aviation security worldwide. 

The strategy's central element is the ICAO Aviation Security Plan of Action. The plan includes the following main points: 

  • Identification, analysis, and development of an effective global response to new and emerging threats, integrating timely measures to be taken in specific areas, including airports, aircraft, and air traffic control systems; 
  • Strengthening the security-related provisions in the Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, using expedited procedures where warranted and subjecting all provisions to overall safety considerations, notably to provide for protection of the flight deck; 
  • Close coordination among and coherence of audit programs at the regional and sub-regional levels; 
  • Having ICAO process the results in a way that reconciles confidentiality and transparency; and 
  • A follow-up program for assistance, including rectifying identified deficiencies. 

The ICAO Council is expected to ready the Plan of Action for adoption no later than June 14, 2002, with implementation to commence as soon after as possible. 

To implement the Plan of Action, ICAO contracting states are obliged to follow the provisions of the Chicago Convention. This convention stipulates that "With respect to aviation security, it is particularly important to maintain worldwide uniform standards, since the protection deriving from the implementation of the security standards is only as strong as the weakest element of the chain. It is to be borne in mind that in this area premeditated, organized, and sometimes sophisticated attacks by criminal minds, including politically driven groups, target the weak elements in the chain of protection. A global uniform approach, which seeks to eliminate all weak elements in the chain and brings them up to the required standard level of security, is therefore essential." 

At the High-Level Ministerial Conference on Aviation Security held in Montreal, the ministers declared that "a uniform approach in a global system is essential to ensure aviation security throughout the world and that deficiencies in any part of the system constitute a threat to the entire global system." We must admit that the wide disparity in aviation infrastructure-development levels between developed and developing countries, particularly in Africa, poses a problem for maintaining uniform standards in aviation security. ICAO member-states have recognized this fact. The international community must therefore address the problem if the global war on terrorism is to be won. 

The slow aviation infrastructure development pace in Africa is having a negative impact on all African development. Many wonder if it is really possible for the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) to show signs of success within the desired time frame if air transportation is not developed. Without such development, one would have to go to Europe first in order to travel from one neighboring country in Africa to another. NEPAD is working for the people and for effective interaction. 

Aviation security in Africa should be of international concern because no one knows where terrorism may be incubating. In addition, an aircraft traveling from any city in Africa to any other part of the world could be of high risk if adequate security is not in place at the point of departure. The problems of an undeveloped infrastructure and poor security in African countries should therefore be seen as problems that affect the entire world, not just the African continent alone. 

While most airlines operating in Africa are based in other continents, our skies must be safe, our infrastructure must be developed to meet contemporary standards, and sufficient security must be in place. Passengers and crew who feel safe flying out of Africa should have the same measure of confidence traveling within Africa. 


In Africa, as in other continents, aviation remains the safest and most reliable form of transportation. Airports are not just communication hubs, they are the core of African trade and international trade. 

Traditionally, air transportation has experienced higher growth than most other industries. In 1996 the average growth rate in Africa south of the Sahara was 6% and in some countries as high as 8%, growth rates that depended at least partly on aviation. Demand for air transportation is closely linked with economic development and air transportation drives the economy. 

Air transportation and related aviation industries contribute to local, regional, and national economies directly through civil aviation output and jobs as well as through their ripple effect on other industries. In the recent "Economic Contribution of Civil Aviation, Ripples of Prosperity," the air transportation component of civil aviation was estimated to directly contribute $320 billion and 3.9 million jobs. Catalytic-demand effects contributed $390 billion in output and 8.4 million jobs, while induced-demand effects accounted for $650 billion in output and 15.4 million jobs. 

ICAO estimates that the direct contribution of civil aviation, including the consolidated output of air carriers, other commercial operators, and their affiliates, was $370 billion in 1998. These operators had 2.3 million employees on their payrolls. Other airport employees and those hired by air navigation service providers accounted for another 1.9 million jobs while the aerospace and other manufacturing industries generated at least 1.8 million jobs. Thus civil aviation provided no fewer than 6 million jobs throughout the world in 1998. 

To provide passenger, freight, and mail services around the globe, air carriers and other commercial operators purchase a wide range of products and services from airports, air navigation service providers, and manufacturing and service industries, which in turn buy from numerous suppliers. But the global aviation community can deliver its products and services only by fostering and enhancing safety security. This goal can be reached through effective facilities and infrastructures and the necessary manpower and systems for complete security. All of these elements, individually or collectively, could enable the aviation sector to enhance the global economy. 

Understanding the role security plays in assuring passenger and operator confidence has convinced me that adequate security is key to the aviation sector's ability to deliver and indeed to sustain our various economies. Like the biblical verse "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, every other thing will be added unto you," it is my belief that when everyone ensures adequate security, then aviation will prosper. 


In Nigeria, air transportation has remained one of the vital movers of the economy. In regard to our aviation safety and security, the United States has been one of Nigeria's strongest partners. This relationship has blossomed into a robust Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between the two countries. Initially, under this agreement, air service was provided by Nigeria Airways (for Nigeria) and Pan American Airlines (for the United States). In 1988, Pan American ended the Lagos route because of insolvency, and was replaced a few years later by American Trans Air (ATA). 

A turning point in air transportation between the two countries came on August 11, 1993 when Washington suspended direct flights on the route because of security lapses at the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos. However, the suspension was lifted by the U.S. government on December 22,1999 after the Nigerian government appreciably improved the situation. 

It is noteworthy that the United States did not abandon Nigeria after suspending the air link. Experts from the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the United States Embassy in Lagos collaborated with Nigerian officials to bring about positive change. In fact, the suspension could well be described as a tonic that improved security and security awareness in Nigeria's air transportation sub-sector. For instance, suspension of air service hastened the use of screening machines and color-coded identity and on-duty cards, restriction of movement into secure areas, perimeter fencing, and improved monitoring and other services at Nigerian airports. As it responded with these improvements, the Federal Government of Nigeria was aware that it was necessary to meet U.S. standards in order to win the confidence of air travelers within the Nigerian system and to foster air transportation not only within the country but between Nigeria and the U.S. 

In the same vein, Washington's belief in the need for a strong, autonomous regulatory body for Nigerian aviation helped to facilitate the creation, in January 2000, of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). This organization addresses safety oversight and other civil aviation issues and hosted the ICAO safety oversight audit team. The positive report that we anticipate should reflect the country's compliance with international standards. 

In 2001, FAA officials came to Lagos in order to help determine Nigeria's status in the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program. If Nigeria achieves a Category 1 assessment, air transportation in Nigeria as well as between Nigeria and the United States will surely receive a big boost. 

In another collaborative effort to foster air transportation between Nigeria and the U.S., NCAA flight operations safety inspectors received training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma, with a view to improving the skills of the Nigerian air transportation workers in line with international standards. In its determination to complement these collaborative efforts and to win the international community's confidence in the country's air services, Nigeria has taken steps to upgrade its various relevant regulations. We have reviewed the Nigerian Civil Air Navigation Regulations, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, the Aviation Safety Inspectors Handbook, and the development of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Requirements. In March 2001, we launched the NCAA Consumer Protection Program to further enhance air travelers' confidence in the system and facilitate redress of complaints. This aspect of air transportation is vital in the United States and other parts of the world, and by establishing this program Nigeria is showing its determination to move along with the U.S. and other countries in this regard. 

Perhaps one of the most remarkable steps Nigeria has taken to demonstrate its interest in fostering an air transportation relationship with the United States is the creation of the Open Skies Agreement, which was signed by both countries in August 2000 and which will be effective by the end of March 2006. By that time, all obstacles or restrictions on airline operations between the two countries will have been removed and both nations' aircraft will be able to freely enter and exit at any point in either country. 

By taking on a leadership role in support of the Yamoussoukro Declaration and the Banjul Decision, Nigeria has continued to campaign for the liberalization of air services and the integration of African airspace, promoting easy movement of air traffic within the region and between the region and other areas, including the United States. We are certain that in the months and years to come, there will be more areas of common interest to the U.S. and Nigeria, which the two countries will continue to exploit in order to foster air transportation services between them. Our efforts now are only the beginning. 


The misuse of civil aircraft as weapons of destruction and the other terrorist acts that have been committed against civil aviation are now posing greater challenges to the international community than ever before. There is therefore an urgent need to meet the obligations brought about by unlawful interference in international civil aviation and to take strong measures to counter potential threats. In Africa, aviation security requires urgent and practical attention. Some of the areas that require this attention are: 

1. Legislation. Currently there is a lack of national security programs that define each state's general aviation security policy regarding the distribution of tasks, prevention and response measures, and making relevant national security information available to interested partners. In addition, several pertinent international legal instruments have not been ratified, notably the Supplementary Protocol to the Montreal Convention (February 24, 1988 on acts of violence at airports) and the convention on marking plastic explosives for the purpose of detection. There is also an absence of amendments to criminal codes that make unlawful interference perpetrated on a state's territory a punishable act. 

Moreover, there are no airport security programs that include improvements to standard operating procedures, a crisis management plan, and so on. There is also no legislation focused on cargo, mail, parcel, and store security (a Regulated Agent Concept). 

2. Access Control and Airport Perimeter Fencing. Most airports in Africa have weak access control and perimeter fences. It is commonplace to see people from a village on one side of the airport crossing the runway to go to a village on the other side. Wildlife is also able to access the runways. While foreigners will pay to see the beautiful wildlife of Africa, most pilots prefer to see these animals in their natural habitat, not when they are accelerating down a runway. 

3. Training of Security Personnel. In his book Combating Air Terrorism, Rodney Wallis, former director of security for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), noted that, "Training is a truly vital part of air transportation's fight against terrorism, yet too many governments, air administrations and airline managements fail to ensure their staff are adequately prepared for the role..." Since 1993, when Wallis made this observation, civil aviation authorities in the U.S. and other developed countries have evidently paid more attention to the issue of aviation security training. Unfortunately this issue remains a major problem in Africa, especially since most African countries lack national training programs for partners involved in aviation security. There is also no validation and evaluation system for aviation security training. 

4. Security Screening Equipment. Because of the poor state of their economies, most countries in Africa are unable to procure modern hi-tech security equipment that can measure up to the sophistication of present-day terrorist activities. Between 1997 and 1998 alone, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority spent over $144 million for security technologies such as explosives-detection systems, explosives trace detectors, computer-assisted passenger screening systems, and so on. Most African countries can hardly accommodate such an expenditure in their annual budget. 


No one agency, airline, or government has all the answers for improving aviation security. Therefore the way forward must be through broad partnerships between governments and stakeholders in the aviation industry in which no country is left out. If one country is left out, then the global security chain will be weakened. 

African countries must foster the immediate development and publication of a National Aviation Security Program that focuses on a number of key chapters in the NSP Security Manual, enabling the publication of subsequent texts and procedures. Special attention should be paid to the distribution of tasks and to designating a leader who will move ahead by consensus. In addition, African countries should work together to upgrade aviation security through cooperative training, and should develop information exchange mechanisms to evaluate threats and coordinate on cases of unlawful interference. 

Countries throughout Africa should also create a permanent, autonomous, and centralized unit of the Program. Such a structure will assume special importance within the framework of the ICAO global program of audits. Voluntary funds will provide an adequate and stable source of funding for this mechanism until such time that funds can be sought through the regular program budget. A civil aviation security charge would also generate revenue exclusively for the enhancement of security. The unit's objective should be to bring together all private and public entities concerned with strengthening aviation security in the region. 

A mechanism for aviation security evaluation and technical cooperation, which could be developed into a global system, should be initiated under the auspices of ICAO. In addition, AVSEC audit programs should not be limited to departments of civil aviation audits, but extended to the evaluation of airport security levels and the implementation of Annex 17 and Recommended Practices. 


I have always stated that aviation has no indigenous culture or standards. The standards are the same whether in America, Britain, Ghana, or even Nigeria. Screening machines and other important security equipment and systems are regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization. We in Africa have tried, under very difficult conditions, to meet these standards, but our efforts still need assistance. 

To this end, I have requested support from and greater investment by the airlines, international funding agencies, and the World Bank to improve the state of aviation in Africa. Most airlines have profited yearly from the exploitation of African routes, and could do even better if our standards were on a par with those in developed countries. The EXIM Bank, the African Development Bank, and other reputable international banks should be encouraged to invest in African aviation. 

In February 2002, I initiated the meeting of African ministers in charge of aviation at the Montreal aviation security meeting. There we articulated our financial needs and addressed ways to obtain funds in order to enhance aviation, particularly its security components. Very soon we will reach out to you for support and assistance toward reaching this goal. I do hope that in the spirit of the global partnership against terrorism you will be gracious enough to support the African countries. 

This important workshop will achieve much more if we go beyond rhetoric. To that end, I recommend that at the close of the workshop, a definite plan for addressing aviation safety and security problems in Africa be packaged and pursued. I reiterate that any weakness in the global safety and security chain translates to weakness in the entire system. 


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