President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday said he was not happy with the state of security at key airports in the country.
A visibly annoyed President Kikwete said he was particularly concerned about the continued use of Julius Nyerere and Kilimanjaro international airports as conduits for drug trafficking.
In a point-blank message directed at Transport minister Harrison Mwakyembe and the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) management, the President said: “This is the last time I’m directing you to ensure efficient and effective control at our airports.”
The Head of State was speaking in Dar es Salaam during the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of JNIA Terminal Three, which is expected to significantly expand the capacity of Tanzania’s biggest and busiest airport.
President Kikwete expressed his disgust at how easily drug kingpins were using local airports.
“I wonder how drugs go through our airports unnoticed only to be seized outside the country. What is it that lacks at our airports? I’m not happy with this situation and how the ministry and the airport authority are handling this issue,” he said. He said he had been directing the relevant officials to improve security at all airports in the country, but to no avail.
“This business has tarnished the image of this country, and due to its persistence, people all over the world now believe that all of us are involved in this business. I’m very sad about this.”
President Kikwete directed the ministry and the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) to accord more attention to JNIA and Kilimanjaro International Airport, saying the use of the two facilities as drug conduits was a chronic problem.
“All I want is improved security at these airports. If the trend continues, I will deal with you, the TAA director general, and your board chairman,” he said.
He said TAA boss Suleiman Suleiman and any other employee who knew the people involved in smuggling drugs through airports should forward their names to him.
“Just give me their names. Whether they are police officers, Tanzania Revenue Authority employees or any other official. I will fire them immediately. I have power to do so and no one can question my decision. They tarnish the image of all of us,” the President said.
“Every time you claim that the procurement law is the main obstacle. How can such a law hinder the implementation of this for about two years now? I want this to end as soon as possible.”
Dr Mwakyembe later told The Citizen that the installation of modern security equipment at JNIA had begun, adding that it would go hand in hand with the setting up of more efficient security system.
“We are actually overhauling the whole security system at the airport. We have the funds and the process is underway now. That’s why you now rarely hear about drugs being seized at the airport,” Dr Mwakyembe said.
Earlier, TAA Director General Suleiman Suleiman said about 7,000 jobs would be created upon completion of the new terminal.
He said the project would be implemented in two phases, adding that the terminal would be able to handle up to 3.5 million passengers annually once the first phase was complete. He added:
“The second phase will also include the establishment of a new security system.