Nigeria’s aviation authorities have launched an investigation into how a teenage boy flew from Benin in the country’s southern Edo state to the economic capital city of Lagos in the wheel well of a plane operated by the local Arik Air on Saturday.
The boy, identified as Daniel Ihekina, was arrested by security personnel after he came out of the tyre hole when the plane landed in Lagos after about 30 minutes.
The incident, which occurred on Saturday morning, is the latest case of serious security breaches in Nigeria’s domestic airports.
It has already triggered a blame game between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Arik Air, the country’s biggest airline.
FAAN spokesman Yakubu Dati said ”full and urgent investigation” had commenced into the incident, and blamed the airline for the breach.
FAAN said it held Arik Air liable ”for the circumstances leading to the stowaway of a teenage boy on its aircraft at the Benin Airport,” adding: ”Arik Air acted with impunity by not stopping the aircraft to check when the crew and ground personnel’s attention was drawn to an abnormality on the tarmac.”
But the airline blamed FAAN for the security breach, quoting its Managing Director Chris Ndulue as saying in a statement, “We are worried by the incessant security lapses at our airports. We are appealing to the management of FAAN to immediately address the problem.”
According to the airline, the pilot of the plane had reported to the control tower the presence of a strange boy in the bush about 200-300 metres at the end of runway before leaving the airport.
It said the the control tower had told its pilot that they were sending security men to the place to arrest the boy.
Arik Air said 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.
It said 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.
According to the private Punch newspaper on Sunday, past cases of security include the incident in 2010, when Nigerian man, Emeka Okechukwu Okeke, who tried to smuggle himself to the US, died in the wheel well of a Delta Airlines aircraft that took off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. His body was discovered on arrival in New York.
In another case in 2012, the dead body of a young Nigerian man was discovered in the wheel well of a Nigerian airline after it returned from South Africa.
Lack of perimeter fencing in several Nigerian airports means that unauthorised persons as well as stray animals can have access to the critical areas of the airports