Pandemonium broke out on Tuesday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos as personnel of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), in conjunction with other security agencies, carried out a counter-terrorism exercise at the airport.
Our correspondent reported that most of the passengers and users of the airport were caught unaware as a group of men who posed as terrorists seized the departure hall and put the air travelers under intense terror.
Several eyewitnesses told our correspondent that, at first, they thought the terminal was under terrorist attack. “People were running in every direction, scampering for safety,” said a passenger who said he was bound for London. He said the people posing as terrorists took over the entire departure hall and shot sporadically into the air.
Another source revealed that one passenger’s blood pressure seemed to spike dangerously, adding that a member of the crew of Ethiopian Airline wet herself. Medics reportedly rushed a woman to another part of the terminal for treatment. Another passenger said he saw a woman abandon her toddler in a stroller and flee.
The simulated anti-terror exercise saw quick intervention by Special Forces, led by NAF officers, to repel the perceived attackers. The response brought relief to travelers who were under the impression that the Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, had staged a daring attack at the airport.
Battle-ready Special Forces maneuvered their way into the terminal building with the help of a NAF helicopter with registration number 565 that dropped the troops on the roof of the terminal. The Special Forces, who gained entrance into the terminal through its roof, were able to overpower the “terrorists” and arrested them after a serious gun duel that lasted for more than 45 minutes. At the end of the fierce gun battle, the captured “terrorists” were led into a waiting military van and driven away to an undisclosed location.
Speaking shortly after the simulation exercise that lasted for almost an hour, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the essence of the simulation was to evaluate the state of preparedness of the Special Forces in the event of any terrorist attack at any of the country’s airports. He expressed satisfaction with the performance of the forces and assured that NAF was battle-ready against terrorism within and outside the airport.
Air Marshal Abubakar added that, though he had seen some gaps in today’s simulation, he and the team would go back, evaluate and address any issues. He disclosed that some of the security operatives who carried out the mock operation were trained in Pakistan and while some were trained in Nigeria, noting that all the security agencies have been very cooperative to make the exercise possible.
The agencies that participated in the simulation were the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the police, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Aviation Security (ASEC), Nigeria Civil Defense Corps (NCDC), officers from the police anti-bomb squad, and the NAF, which was the host.
The simulation was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. but did not commence until around 12.15 p.m. due to bad weather.