Chairman of ANAP Jets, Mr. Atedo Peterside, has confirmed to THISDAY that his jet was robbed on the tarmac of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, while waiting for clearance to take off.
According to him, the incident happened about 8:00p.m. last Sunday and lamented that the ability of unscrupulous persons to have access to the airport showed that the Lagos airport was insecure and as the nation’s busiest airport, concerned authorities should be worried about what happened.
Investigations into the incident by THISDAY revealed that security breaches occur daily at the airport because there is no comprehensive security and perimetre fencing, so people easily go into the airport and hide in the bushes that surround the airside, where aircraft taxi to take off.
According to the safety procedure adopted by FAAN since the incidents of robbery on taxing aircraft, every aircraft taking off is escorted by patrol vans with security operatives and arriving aircraft are also escorted by patrol vans.
Reports however indicated that when the ANAP Jets aircraft was about to take off, it was not escorted and it was directed to wait at the holding point for another aircraft to take off at the runway by the Air Traffic Control.
It was while it was waiting that suspected thieves came out from the bush and accessed the cargo hold of the flight and took the only bag in the hold.
Peterside dismissed the doubt being expressed by FAAN officials and said, “I will be surprised if anybody will deny it. When they opened the cargo hold they saw only one bag in it and they took it. They would have taken all the bags if there were more bags there. What this shows is that Lagos airport is vulnerable in terms of security. If the security at the airport is fortified, they should not have been able to enter there at all.”
He also expressed concern about the untamed bushes that grow around the airport and said they provide thieves areas to hide and carry out their unscrupulous acts.
According to him, it was standard procedure that the cargo hold was not locked when people are inside the aircraft and at landing the ground staff could easily access the hold, adding that for safety reasons in case of emergency, such doors were not locked so that they could be opened during evacuation by ground personnel.
“When you are coming to land all your doors should be in a position that they could be opened from outside. This is manufacturer’s specification and you don’t have to breach such recommendations. You cannot make aircraft impregnable. The solution to this is to provide efficient security system. But the aircraft could be locked from outside when no one is in the aircraft. You have to obey the directive of the manufacturer. But I wish to note also that FAAN manages other airports in the country and some of them are secure. They have not robbed our aircraft in Benin, Owerri and it has been a long time they robbed aircraft in Abuja, so the problem is a Lagos problem. Almost all the robbery incidents happen in Lagos,” he explained.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, told THISDAY that it had been difficult to confirm such incidents but despite that the agency had fortified security at the airside and other parts of the airport.
She said FAAN acquired more patrol vans, trained more security personnel who in a joint security operation patrol the airside of the airport regularly.
Also a top official of the agency at the international wing of the Lagos airport told THISDAY that investigation was still on-going.
“We are still investigating because the point of the incident was inside the active area of the airport and not at the usual end of the runway. We are still investigating,” the official said.
When contacted, spokesman of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye told THISDAY that he was not aware of the incident and promised to find out.
However, aviation security expert, Ayo Obilano said while he was not sure of the current incident, similar incidents had happened before and noted that there must be a system failure in terms of security.
“Aircraft should be escorted. If they had escorted the aircraft this would not have happened. The Air Traffic Control might not have informed the Rapid Response team to escort the aircraft or that the team was not there. So to me, communication is key,” he said.
It has to be noted that many incidents have happened in the past and even pilots that had operated Lagos and other airports in the country confirm that for many years such incidents have been happening at the nation’s airports, especially in Lagos.
In early December 2017, there were reports that a private jet was attacked on the runway18R of the airport by unknown bandits when taxiing to the hangar of Evergreen Apple Nigeria (EAN) Ltd. The jet was said to be arriving from Istanbul between 2110 and 2130hrs after landing in Lagos.
The pilot of the flight was Captain Emma Heering, who reportedly discovered that the rear door of the aircraft was opened while taxiing to the hangar.
About two weeks later, another theft was reported on the airport’s runway, and this time, it involved two known Nigerian musicians, Tiwa Savage and Wizkid. A private jet conveying the two artistes from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, was allegedly robbed while taxiing on the runway.
Sources at the airport informed THISDAY that the aircraft, a Bombardier Challenger 605 jet with registration number T7-A00, arrived Lagos about 8:33p.m on December 26 and was slowly taxiing to the arrival hangar when the cargo compartment was burgled. Reports said the jet had slowed to allow an Ethiopia Airlines cargo plane with registration number ET-ARH to push back for takeoff.
The pilot of the business jet, Captain Cloud Cote, noticed the cargo door had been opened by burglars and promptly notified the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria security. But the burglars had disappeared before FAAN officials could make it to where the attack took place, a source had disclosed.
On Thursday, February 8, 2018, the pilot in command of Air Peace Flight 7138 noticed that the cargo hold door light of the aircraft showed for 15 minutes in the cockpit, which indicated that somebody might have tampered with the door and the pilot decided to investigate and sent his crew members to do so. The aircraft was at the holding point of Runway 18R of the Lagos airport, waiting for signal from the control tower to take off.
Also, on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 pilot of African World Airlines (AWA) scared away suspected bandits, who opened the cargo hold of his aircraft at about 6:45 pm, Nigerian time. The aircraft was on holding point of Runway 18R, waiting for signals to take off, on its way to Accra, Ghana. Although THISDAY learnt about the incident from an insider, who works at the airside of the Lagos airport, but the incident was given credence by report from The Ghana Guardian, a major Ghanaian newspaper. According to ghanaguardian.com, a Ghanaian pilot of Africa World Airlines unleashed hot gas to foil an armed robbery attempt by thieves in Nigeria as they attempted to burglarise the Accra-bound CRJ jet.
Since the incidents were first reported, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has doubted the possibility of such happening. But records indicate that over the years, similar incidents have been happening, coming to a climax in the 1990s, which prompted the then Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha, to give a shoot at sight order on anyone seen on the runway of the Lagos airport.
Maybe with the latest incident, FAAN and government may decide to approach security apparatus at Lagos airport from a different strategy.