In reaction to the report that al-Qaeda and its affiliates may bomb airliners travelling to the United States and other destinations through mobile phones or laptops, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) yesterday ordered its Aviation Security (AVSEC) to direct passengers to switch on their electronic gadgets before security screening at the airports.
This is to enable security operatives determine genuine mobile phones, laptops and others that might be used as bomb carriers.
THISDAY learnt that the directive was given by the office of the Chief Security Officer of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, with a directive that the new policy should start with immediate effect.
Informed source from AVSEC told THISDAY that passengers should be made to open their electronic gadgets before coming for security screening so that it would not cause or delay queues while trying to switch them on at the approach to the screening machines.
THISDAY also learnt that FAAN’s security apparatus is synergising with other security operatives to fortify the airports and prevent unwanted persons from gaining access to the airports or into flights.
The source said because the possible bomb from al-Qaeda may not be detected by normal x-ray machines, FAAN said that it had adjusted its full body scanner to expose dangerous objects, including compromised mobile phones and other electronics and at the same time not expose human body parts.
Also the agency said it had strengthened airport patrol in concert with other security operatives, including personnel from the army, police and other law enforcement agencies.
“The federal government, through FAAN, has synergised efforts from different security operatives to fortify the international airports to ensure that anyone with dangerous object is not allowed to board any flight in this country. Screening has been taken seriously and our full body scanner had been adjusted so that it will no more expose body parts but at the same time detect any dangerous objects in any luggage, gadget or anything else,” the AVSEC source told THISDAY.
It was reported late last week that airlines with direct flights to the US have been told to tighten screening of mobile phones and shoes in response to intelligence reports of increased threats from al Qaeda-affiliated militant groups.
US officials singled out smartphones for extra security checks on US-bound direct flights from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The officials said they feared bomb makers from the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had worked out how to turn the phones into explosive devices that could avoid detection.
They also expressed concern that hard-to-detect bombs could be built into shoes, adding that other electronic devices carried by passengers were likely to receive more intense scrutiny.
The US said airlines or airport operators who failed to strengthen security could face bans on flights entering the US.