Confidence Rises as Olubunmi Kuku Executes Complete Re-Engineering Work at FAAN

…Upgrades passenger screening technology

…Reduces multiple baggage checks

… Addresses flight delays, cancellation

The progress or otherwise of any organisation depends on the competence of the leadership.

While some appointments are described as round pegs in square holes, that of Olubunmi Oluwaseun Kuku, as the managing director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has been hailed to be fitting, being a round peg in a round hole.

Kuku is the first female to occupy that position in Nigeria. Her experience in the aviation industry has spanned two decades, and her expertise, leadership and dedication to the sector has been remarkable.

Operators in the industry are in agreement that managing an airport comes with several challenges needing expertise across several sectors.

“Managing 21 airports across the country is indeed not an easy feat,” an operator in the industry said on condition of anonymity.

Kuku stands as a beacon of inspiration and leadership in Nigeria’s aviation sector as she quickly set the ball rolling following her appointment as MD in December 2023. She has continued to bring innovations across airports in Nigeria.

Her appointment was a significant milestone in breaking gender barriers in a traditionally male-dominated field, paving the way for future female leaders in aviation and leaving an indelible mark in the history of the FAAN.

Strides in six months

Since Kuku’s appointment as MD, there have been improvements in infrastructure upgrade and enhancement of airport security. She has single-handedly launched key initiatives relating to measures, equipment and manpower, and their impact on safeguarding the airports against acts of unlawful interference.

With an understanding that just like the rest of the world, the landscape of aviation security in Nigeria faces significant challenges, including terrorism threats exacerbated by armed banditry, kidnapping, smuggling activities and local civil agitations, Kuku quickly moved to mitigate these challenges by implementing the process of continuous risk assessment to enable the deployment of robust measures to ensure airport security, protect passengers, crew, airport personnel and other stakeholders and their investments.

Kuku’s initiatives aimed at strengthening airport security include technology upgrades, training programmes, quality assurance, manpower recruitment efforts, armed enforcement efforts, enhanced communication in Aviation Security (AVSEC) and operational mobility improvement.

Upgrade in passenger screening technology

In January 2024, Kuku completed the remodeling of the passenger security checkpoint at the Zulu Terminal of the Domestic Zone of the Lagos airport. This involved the redesign and expansion of the screening point, installation of new and technologically advanced, EDS-enabled screening machines and remodeling of the passenger waiting area.

This technology upgrade has resulted in the improvement in passenger throughput, reduced stress on AVSE operatives, enhanced detection of prohibited items and improved handling of arms carried by Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) traveling on flights.

AVSEC operational communication

Kuku has an ongoing project aimed at the provision and installation of 3,000 units of hand-held radios, radio base stations, vehicle-mounted radios, and repeater stations.

In April 2024, a total of 500 walkie-talkie radios were deployed at Lagos and Abuja airports, including the Directorate headquarters.

Recruitment and training

Shortly after her appointment as MD, she ensured that a total of 201 AVSEC recruits graduated from the FAAN AVSEC Training School upon the completion of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Standardised Training Packages (STP) 123/Basic.

In May 2024, additional sets of recruitment exercises covering about 250 were completed for South-East and South-South Airports.

Airport permit production

The On-Duty Card (ODC) equipment at the Akure and Jos airports were upgraded to the Prima 8 specification. This is to bring other domestic airports in Nigeria to par with global best practices.

Buses for passenger transfer

Kuku has been able to lease Apron buses to move passengers from the parking bay to the new international terminal at Lagos Airport.

Capacity building

In 2023 and 2024, the FAAN under the leadership of Kuku completed the following training programmes (amongst several others) aimed at capacity development:

Screeners Certification Course MMA (250 personnel) – 2023, Screeners Certification Course Enugu (30 personnel) – 2023, Screeners Certification Course Port-Harcourt (55 personnel) – 2023, AVSEC Managers Course (Lagos , Abuja & Kano) January – February 2024, AVSEC Supervisors Course (Lagos & Abuja) – March 2024, Unruly/Disruptive Passengers Training (Lagos , Abuja & Kano) – March 2024, STP 123/Refreshers (Lagos) – June 2024 (ongoing), 3-Year Training Plan, mandatory courses and Comprehensive Coverage Across Airports.

In March 2024, Kuku helped resuscitate and upgrade the moribund EOC at the Lagos airport.

Operational mobility

The Authority under the leadership of Kuku revamped unserviceable patrol vehicles to enhance patrols, aircraft protection, airside surveillance and security.

Armed response squad

On Monday, 24th June 2024, the authority unveiled trained 120 trained armed AVSEC personnel to address primary operations, security emergencies such as terrorism, banditry, etc, airside security, perimeter patrols, static guarding of vulnerable critical infrastructures, escort of arriving & departing aircraft and landside security.

Aircraft fire simulator

Kuku recently intervened to resolve the dispute on the Boeing 737-NG full flight fire simulator acquired in 2019 by the federal government and installed at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT).

Rising from a meeting held in the MD/CE’s Boardroom in Lagos, and attended by FAAN top management team and a team from NCAT led by Joseph Imalighwe, the Rector/CEO, and the leadership of the Nigerian Aviation Fire and Safety Association (NAFSA), it was resolved that FAAN and NCAT would share revenue and liabilities on the simulator. Also, FAAN will use its network to attract foreign trainees to use the facility and raise revenue for both organisations.

Addressing flight delays, cancellation

Kuku has ensured that flight disruptions and delays are addressed since the international runway, known as Runway 18R became operational.

The runway which was put into service in February after it was closed for rehabilitation, has become functional with all the necessary facilities.

She has said that under her watch, no expense has been spared to ensure the safety of personnel and assets, as well as maintenance and upgrade of airport infrastructure.

Airlines on international operations from Lagos have since recorded improved on-time performance since the runway was put in use.

Reduction of multiple baggage checks

Kuku and her team have carried out short- and long-term measures to address the issue including the creation of a joint coordination room where all the agencies can view CCTV cameras to ascertain what they are looking for.

She described the development as disturbing, but affirmed that the issue was the first thing she inquired about upon assumption of office adding that she personally sat down with Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser, to discuss how to streamline the facilitation processes.

“On the issues of the checking of baggage, it borders me so much and that was the first inquiry that I made when I assumed office. As far back as 2011 and 2012 when I was in the industry, this was something I have worked on with the former Minister.

“It actually goes beyond FAAN, a lot of those agencies, Customs, NDLEA, Quarantine, Agriculture, we now have EFCC, we have almost everybody at the airports, we had Executive order 001 during the Buhari administration to move them out under the then Vice President office, now we have the National Single Window, I have personally sat with the NSA over the last five weeks to have conversations with him as to how we will streamline the facilitation,” she said.

Not winking in the dark

The MD came with the mindset of transparency and ensuring that her work speaks for her. This she told some media executives in Lagos, at a meeting on Friday, May 3, 2024.

She urged the media to hold her accountable and promised that she would address all noticeable challenges under her watch. Kuku said that she was open to constructive criticism where necessary, but that plaudits must not be withheld from her and her team when they merit them.

Recent projects spearheaded by Kuku have, no doubt, strengthened airport security, protecting airlines, passengers, personnel and other airport users.

A peep into her career

Olubunmi Oluwaseun Kuku’s academic foundation is as impressive as her professional one. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Illinois in 2000, demonstrating early on her aptitude for complex financial systems. Not resting on her laurels, she furthered her education by obtaining an MBA in International Finance & Strategic Management from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business in 2004. These academic achievements laid the groundwork for a career marked by strategic insight and innovative thinking.

Before shattering the glass ceiling at FAAN, Kuku honed her skills in various high-impact roles. Her tenure as Vice President and Head of Visa Consulting & Analytics for Sub-Saharan Africa at Visa saw her drive significant growth and development in the region.

She also brought her expertise to Ernst & Young (EY) as a Partner in Business Consulting, showcasing her ability to navigate and transform complex business environments. Furthermore, her role as a General Manager at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) overseeing Business Development & Investment underlined her capability in steering organisations towards success.

Kuku’s influence extends beyond the corporate realm into strategic sectors of the economy. She has played a pivotal role in driving transformative growth, notably in her advisory capacity for Strategy & Infrastructure Development at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency. Her hands-on involvement with the former Minister of Aviation and as General Manager for Business Development at the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency underscored her deep commitment to the aviation sector.

Collaborating with prestigious development and multilateral agencies, Kuku has engaged with the World Bank, African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). These collaborations highlight her ability to work at the intersection of international development and strategic economic planning.

Kuku’s professional affiliations and certifications further underscore her commitment to excellence. Her participation in the Executive Leadership Program, IGNITE, at INSEAD Business School/Visa in 2023, her status as a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Business Development since 2014, her membership in the National Institute of Marketing Nigeria since 2016, and her Executive Education at Harvard Business School in 2004, all speak volumes of her continuous pursuit of professional development and excellence.

Appointed by President Bola Tinubu, Kuku’s ascent to the top echelon of FAAN was not just a career milestone but also a significant moment in Nigeria’s aviation history. Known for her impeccable leadership skills and dedication, she has always been at the forefront of innovation and efficiency, setting new standards in airport management and operations.

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