December 30, 2009 / 4:28 PM / 10 years ago

Nigeria to acquire full-body scanners for airports

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria will equip its international airports with full-body scanners next year after a 23-year-old Nigerian man tried to blow up a U.S. passenger plane on Christmas Day, an aviation official said on Wednesday.

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority chief Harold Demuren said Nigeria had started the process of acquiring the machines, which use radio waves to generate a picture of the body that can see through clothing and spot hidden weapons or packages.

“These are new machines. Not many airports in the world are operating them right now, but Nigeria is determined because of the new face of the threat we are seeing, to acquire them,” Demuren told reporters in Lagos.

“This will be taking place in the New Year. We plan to acquire them at all our international airports,” he said.

International airlines serve Nigeria’s capital Abuja and the commercial hub of Lagos from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. There are also direct flights to the United States.

Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with trying to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam with almost 300 people on board.

Abdulmutallab started his journey to Detroit in Lagos, where he boarded a KLM flight to Amsterdam before going through transit at Schiphol airport.

Schiphol will begin using full-body scanners within three weeks to check people travelling to the United States, after consultations with U.S. authorities, Dutch Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst said on Wednesday.

Ter Horst said normal metal detectors could not spot explosives, and the use of the full-body scanners would have helped prevent Abdulmutallab from taking them onto the aircraft.

Concerns over cost and privacy have so far hindered the widespread use of the technology, with critics arguing that it is unacceptably intrusive. Major manufacturers like L-3 Communications, Smiths Group and Qinetiq Group have been working to assuage those fears.

Demuren said ahead of the arrival of the new machines, Nigerian authorities had been ordered to ensure full compliance with tighter security measures, including a “100 percent physical screening” of all passengers and the placing of liquids, gels and aerosols in transparent plastic bags.

Editing by Janet Lawrence

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