Teenager flies to Lagos in Arik Air tyre

Teenager flies to Lagos  in Arik Air tyre
Daniel Ihekina

Arik, FAAN trade blames over breach of security

How did a young boy outsmart security operatives at the Benin Airport yesterday to stow away on a commercial flight to Lagos undetected?

This is one of the questions experts in the aviation industry and security agencies will have to find an answer to after the boy was found on the arrival of the plane at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja yesterday.

The development has already sparked accusations and counter accusations between Arik Air whose security was breached and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the agency responsible for security in all the nation’s airports.

The boy, whose name was given as Daniel Ihekina, hid in the tyre compartment of Arik Aircraft 5N-MJG, Flight 44 while preparing for take- off to Lagos at 9am.

The management of the airline attributed the development to security lapses at the Benin Airport.

But FAAN countered, saying the airline acted with impunity on the matter.

On board the plane were several top officials of the Edo State government.

Passengers aboard the airline were shocked when security agents found the teenager at the MMA soon after the aircraft landed.

Though none of the officials at the Benin Airport agreed to comment on the issue, there were fears that the boy may have accessed the tarmac through Akenzua Road axis owing to lack of perimeter fencing at the airport. A passenger aboard the plane said: “we were suspicious in Benin when the plane was about taking off when we heard a noise as if the tyre crushed somebody on the ground. Some people even started shouting ‘Jesus, Jesus, which suggested that the boy was already inside the tyre compartment before we left.

“So, we left for Lagos but when we landed at the Ikeja Airport, the boy came out from the tyre compartment and everybody started shouting.

“Seriously speaking, this shows that we have serious problems with regard to securing our airports. This is a serious security breach. If that boy was carrying bomb it means he would have succeeded in blowing up the plane. How can somebody be in an aircraft without being detected? We are in trouble in this country.”

However, Arik Air, in a swift reaction to the development, blamed it all on security lapses at the Benin Airport.

It expressed shock at how anyone could beat aviation security checks at the Benin Airport to stowaway into the main wheel of its aircraft.

Spokesman for the company, Mr Banji Ola, said :”The pilot of Arik Air flight W3 544, departing Benin Airport for Lagos at 9.00am today (yesterday) 24thAugust, 2013 reported to the control tower the presence of a strange boy in the bush about 200 – 300 metres at the end of runway 23.

“The control tower told the captain that they were sending security men to the place to arrest the boy. As the captain was making his final turn, preparatory for take-off, a cabin crew called his attention to the information by some of the passengers that they saw a boy running towards the airplane. The First Officer confirmed that they had observed it earlier and alerted the control tower which responded that they have sent the patrol team to arrest the boy. The captain again reported to the control tower and was informed that the situation was under control and that he had been cleared for take-off.

“On arrival at the domestic wing of MMA, Lagos, a teenage boy, who apparently had sneaked into the aircraft main wheel well jumped out and was arrested by Arik personnel and handed over to FAAN security.”

Managing Director of the airline, Mr. Chris Ndulue, asked the authorities of FAAN to “immediately address the problem.”

But speaking for FAAN, Mr Yakubu Dati said Arik Air was responsible for the breach by not conducting a check on the plane after the attention of the crew and ground personnel was drawn to an abnormally on the tarmac.

The procedure for such infraction, he said, is for the crew to abort the flight and return to the apron for check-up.

“It is revealing that Arik Air accepted that their attention was drawn to the presence of foreign bodies on the tarmac. Why they ignored this vital safety precaution reveals their disdain for following safety procedures,” he said and warned that FAAN will not tolerate such infraction from any operator.

 

He said: “This is arrant display of impunity. The aircraft should not have taxied further, but return to the apron until a proper check is carried out on all parts of the aircraft.

“FAAN will not tolerate such impunity henceforth from Arik or any airline. Any violation would be met with applicable sanctions.”

The suspect is already giving useful information to security agents on his motive.

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