A fortnight ago, a horrifying incident at the Murtala International Airport, Lagos caused shock and panic among air travelers in Nigeria. A man prevented a Port Harcourt-bound Azman aircraft from taking off by climbing onto the plane’s wing. The pilot of the plane, which was already preparing for take-off, promptly switched off the its engine.
Videos circulated by the passengers on traditional and social media platforms showed that there was confusion and panic in the plane. People watching on the ground too were horrified by the intruder’s act. Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria’s [FAAN] spokesperson Henrietta Yakubu later identified the intruder as Usman Adamu from Niger Republic. FAAN promptly suspended four senior security heads pending the outcome of investigation. FAAN’s Managing Director Capt. Rabi’u Hamisu Yadudu, who spoke at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano said five days before the incident, the same man was apprehended by aviation security men within the airport premises.
Yadudu said, “It is noteworthy that this same suspect was apprehended by FAAN aviation security patrol around 22:00hours on the night of Sunday, July 14, 2019 within the airport premises. His profile pictures were taken and he was subsequently evacuated out of the airport to a very far location in accordance with our standard procedure.” The MD described the incident as “embarrassing and a serious safety and security breach.” He said FAAN took full responsibility for the incident and that it remained committed to its core values of safety, security and comfort of passengers. “We do understand that the security wheel is ever revolving with new and emerging threats daily and we have been working with all our stakeholders and regulatory agency [NCAA] in addressing our security challenges,” he said.
Yadudu also said FAAN had taken up the challenge posed by the incident and would act accordingly by scaling-up and upgrading its security architecture to ensure that safety of travellers was guaranteed. Security sources said the intruder was undergoing interrogation at the Lagos Airport Police Command headquarters just as efforts were being made to ascertain his mental state. Apart from the fact that the incident caused shock and panic across the country, it also caused the nation a huge embarrassment as for days after the incident, the international media kept replaying clips of it in their news broadcasts. We commend the pilot who for his quick thinking and professional conduct that prevented what would have become a major disaster.
Still, there are many questions begging for answers. An airport is supposed to be a high security zone, especially the runway, so how was it possible that the suspect beat security to the point where he could have access to a plane that was already taxiing for take-off? How did it happen that a man who had earlier been picked up for intrusion could again beat all security men on duty? How did he climb onto a plane’s wing without ladder?
A serious security breach occurred and we urge security agents and FAAN to ensure a thorough investigation into the matter. The findings should be made public. It is good that four staffers are already on suspension for their suspected negligence in the matter but we urge that all those culpable should be fished out and punished accordingly. It was also reported that after the pilot called the control tower, it took 36 minutes for them to respond. That is definitely not good enough. In an emergency situation, every minute counts and as such they should be ready to respond to situations as quickly as possible at all times.
Nigeria is experiencing a lot of security challenges and we cannot afford lapses such as this. All the loopholes should be identified and security beefed up accordingly. Airports across the country should learn from this and buckle up. Loiterers should be discouraged from hanging around airports. Anyone who has no business there should not be there. Everything possible should be done to restore confidence of the public in air travel.