On Friday, after Esteban Santiago, a United States Army veteran, got his things from the luggage carousel at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, he went straight into the bathroom, came back out and within minutes, he had killed five people and injured six.
Esteban had been so disturbed by his experiences fighting for his country that he believed his government was controlling his mind and his only path to freedom was to shoot at fellow passengers at a crowded airport.
It is interesting that this happened the same week the Federal Government in Nigeria announced plans to revamp our porous airport security by making arms available to the Aviation security.
According to Aviation minister, Mr Hadi Sirika who made the announcement on Wednesday:
“We are very serious about aviation security, just last week the President approved that aviation security should bear arms, so we are trying to make them take the form and shape of TSA of the US with K-9 dogs, handcuffs, the guards, the batons, light weapons, etc.”
The TSA of the US
By this, Hadi Sirika meant that the new Aviation Security will take the for of the Transportation Service Administration of the United States. This in itself is not very surprising; the TSA is most likely better than whatever we have now.
However, the events of Friday at the Fort Lauderdale Airport have raised security questions in the United States about security there – especially as to how anyone was able to fly across the country carrying a gun – a 9 mm pistol – in his possession and also be able to go load the same gun within the airport before opening fire at the other passengers.
Esteban had boarded his plane from the Ted Stevens International Airport, Anchorage in Alaska where no one raises a questioning brow about a passenger travelling with guns because it is “a big hunting state, so we get quite a lot of that”, according to the Police Chief in the State.
Under the laws in Florida where the Fort Lauderdale Airport is, passengers are currently not allowed to carry guns into the airport terminal. HOWEVER, because the Transportation Security Administration allows passengers nationwide to fly with guns and ammunitions, the Florida laws don’t make complete sense and so even in Florida, a passenger can carry his guns and ammunition into the airport terminal provide he complies with TSA’s conditions:
So all Esteban had to do was to secure his gun in a secure box/hard-sided case unloaded. But he was also allowed to secure the magazines and ammunitions in the same box. All allowed as long as he checks in the bags containing them.
This explains his first stop at the bathroom where he must have unpacked and loaded his gun.
Where the problem lies for Nigeria
If our track record is anything to go by, the “shiny” model the TSA uses in America will most likely be copied hook, line and sinker and imported here for the legislature to approve. And they probably will.
It is a good thing we are looking at blocking off all avenues of transporting terrorists through our airports. Hadi Sirika should be lauded for this because it means we are finally starting to think pro-actively about these matters. But the solution does not start and end with arms-bearing security and intelligent dogs.
As the Fort Lauderdale shooting shows, a lot of consideration must be given to the fine prints because an armed security system does not ensure that the law won’t have loopholes that can be exploited.
We’ll suggest the Minister pushes for the appropriate legislation that will help see to it that ammunition of any kind, weapons, explosives that must be flown across Nigeria are separately transported and handled by the appropriate authorities. Also, that any passengers transporting such ammunition or weapon must be closely watched.