By Evelyn Usman

Lagos—Stampede by Air travellers and aviation staff greeted Nigerian Air Force counter terrorist exercise code-named operation Thunder bolt at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport , Lagos, yesterday.

Murtala Muhammad Airport

The operation was to demonstrate the force readiness to respond to any terrorists attacks in any of the nation’s airports, as witnessed elsewhere in the globe.

However, the simulation exercise which was set on a fictitious Republic of Emirana, saw Airforce personnel who were dressed like militants, invading the airport and holding passengers hostage.

The sporadic gunshots from the perceived militants got most travellers frightened as they fled in different directions for safety, inspite of the notice pasted at the entrance of the arrival hall, informing them of the exercise.

A member of one of the airline’s aviation staff who slumped at the sound of the gunshots was hurriedly carried on a stretcher, into a waiting ambulance where doctors resuscitated him .

Speaking with newsmen after the purported hostages were freed by men of the Nigerian Airforce, with the ‘militants’ subdued, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, explained that the exercise was aimed among other things, at evaluating the Nigerian Airforce quick response test, adding that personnel involved in the exercise had been trained both internationally and locally to ensure that the nation’s airports were saved from terrorism or any kind of threat.

Noting that there had been several attacks on airports across the globe by terrorists, the CAS revealed that already, Quick Response Troops had been deplored to major airports in Nigeria, to stop any likely threat.

The Air Chief also described the stampede and consequent injury sustained by the panic stricken travellers as normal in a real situation.

However, during the evaluation of the exercise which took three stages, the CAS observed that there were gaps in the areas of crowd control and communication among the concerned agencies, which he said needed to be accessed, in other not to lead to operational failure that could lead to loss of human life in a real situation.

Expressing satisfaction over the exercise which he said was better than that carried out at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Abubakar however, called on need to have a plan B, should any of the operational helicopters develop fault in a real situation.

Among those that witnessed the exercise were Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Tunji Bello, representative from the Ministry of Defence, the Chief of Defense Staff, Maj-Gen Abayomi Olonishakin, representatives of service Chiefs among others.

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