A yet unnamed man intruded into the operations of an Azman airline’s plane at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2), exposing perennial security lapses at the Nigeria’s busiest airport.
The intruder, in a video clip shot by an onboard passenger, showed the middle-aged man approaching the commercial plane with a hand luggage. He, in fact, climbed on the left engine in an attempt to get into the cabin of the plane that was waiting for take-off clearance from control tower.
The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) later confirmed that the intruder had been arrested for interrogation and the plane cleared for the trip.
Aviation stakeholders are, however, worried by the security breach and its serious consequence for safety of lives and properties.
Azman airlines confirmed that its airplane, with registration number 5N-HAI, was invaded. The flying pilot, upon citing the intruder, alerted the control tower and shutdown the engine to prevent the man from getting sucked in.
One of the passengers, Olayinka Abisogun, said it was like a scene from the home movie for many passengers onboard, as they saw the intruder approach the taxing plane.
“He has no reflective jacket on, but was carry a bag, which makes it very suspicious. Someone said he could be Boko Haram and everyone started panicking. He even climbed on the wing as if attempting to come in.
“It was a terrible sight, as we were there for over 30 minutes before the security men came to the plane. I have never seen anything like that in my life,” Abisogun said.
The development forced the Port Harcourt bound plane to return to base, disembarked all passengers and thoroughly frisked the cabin, in line with civil aviation regulations. The plane later continued with the journey after checks were completed.
General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, said the pilot of the Azman aircraft reported the incident and Aviation Security (AVSEC) officials swiftly responded.
“The man has been apprehended and is now in AVSEC’s custody in Tango City. The aircraft taxied back to the apron for a thorough check and has departed for Port Harcourt afterwards. The authority is already investigating the incident,” Yakubu said.
Meanwhile, the hammer has fallen on top aviation security officers following the unfortunate airside incursion early today.
Embarrassed by the security lapses at the Lagos airport that led to a man gaining access to sterile area of the airport, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) suspended indefinitely the Aviation Security unit heads who were on duty when the incident occurred, pending completion of ongoing investigation into the regrettable security infringement.
The affected officers are the Airport Chief of Security, Mamman Mohammed Sadiku, International Terminal Security Officer, Oni Adedamola Abiodun, Head of Department Domestic Terminal 2, Owotor Kenneth Okezie and Head of Department Domestic Terminal 1, Badejo Adebowale Ayodele.
A statement by FAAN’s spokeswoman, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu stated that in the interim, a General Manager of the Authority, Dr. Anne Enyinnaya-Egbadon, has been detailed to take charge of security at the airport. Other affected officers have also been replaced.
The current arrangement is aimed at ensuring an efficient and thorough investigation towards the recovery and sustenance of the airport’s proactive security integrity.
FAAN views this breach as a serious security concern and has commenced investigation to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of this incident to forestall future occurrence.
Security experts have consistently warned that close proximity of residential houses around Cement, Akowonjo, Shasha and Ejigbo to the airside of the airport was a potential threat to security and safety of air travellers.
Aviation Security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the problem of safety and security at the airport was more deep-seated than just an intruder, saying: “How could he have entered the security-controlled areas? Either through the airport access ‘controlled’ areas or from the porous areas, especially the airport perimeter fences that need security enhancement.
“By the way, how many people working in the airport security controlled areas, especially the air side, are properly documented to have access to those areas? How many of them do we have sufficient background checks on them?”
He added that the incident has more implications on the airport security and national security, saying: “Who knows if the act was a failed attempt. Like many have said, the ‘actor’ should not be in the custody of FAAN in the Tango City, but with the responsible agency of national security for breaching a law of national security in the airport security programmes.
“The agency needs to find out where he was coming from and where he is going to and how he got access into the airport restricted area? Did he get help from anyone and how many are they? Is this act his first attempt or there had been other attempts? These questions and many more before you know if it is psychiatric case.”
President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bernard Bankole, said the matter was another security lapse and should be addressed immediately.
“We cannot continue to create that kind of image in a safety-conscious industry like aviation. Aviation means safety and when there is a security breach, it should be addressed immediately,” Bankole said.