It has been confirmed that a 22-year-old man from Nnewi in Anambra State stowed away in a spare compartment of Boeing B747 aircraft operated by Medview Airline and travelled to London from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, and returned unharmed.
Security operatives who are confounded by the successful access of the stowaway to the aircraft have admitted that the Lagos airport and other airports in the country are porous and that if the stowaway were a suicide bomber, he would have destroyed the aircraft along with the passengers while airborne to London.
Contrary to earlier reports that the stowaway hid himself in the nose wheel of the aircraft, THISDAY gathered yesterday that he sneaked into the spares compartment of the aircraft, where engineers keep their equipment, spares and tooling in case they want to work on the aircraft on the tarmac.
Only Boeing B747 aircraft has that special compartment.
THISDAY also gathered that the compartment is as pressurised as the aircraft cabin and it is close to the cockpit, but when the stowaway sneaked into that compartment in the night of last Saturday, nobody saw him accessing the aircraft, including the security officials paid by the airline to secure it; the aviation security officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the police at the protocol area through which he sneaked to the tarmac of the terminal.
THISDAY investigations revealed that the stowaway who has been cooling off at the airport police station since he was arrested on his return with the same flight last Sunday, had admitted that he took the advantage of the lax security details to make his way to the aircraft.
Industry experts have admitted that if the stowaway had travelled in the nose wheel or the wheel-well of the aircraft, he would not have survived because it is usually extremely cold while airborne, just as others in the past who attempted to stowaway through the wheel â€“well had died.
Inside sources told THISDAY that the stowaway confessed that he accessed the airport terminal through the protocol area that is usually manned by the police through the bush area between the Hajj/Cargo terminal and the international terminal.
â€œHe said when he came near the aircraft, he watched the security personnel manning the aircraft and waited for him to look the other way before he sneaked into the aircraft. On arrival in London, he thought that the passengers would disembark and the aircraft would stay another night so that he could sneak out into the city, but when he saw that after the passengers who arrived from Lagos had disembarked and passengers travelling to Lagos had started boarding, he decided to stay back and that was how he came back to Lagos in the same spares compartment.
â€œOn arrival, he was noticed because he started pushing the door of that compartment and airline officials who were surprised that the door was being pushed from inside went to open it. When they opened the compartment door they were surprised to see somebody there. They caught him and handed him over to the police.
Security operative who was privy to the incident told THISDAY that the stowaway breached four levels of security to access the aircraft.
â€œThe first is the perimeter fencing, the second is the close circuit television (CCTV), the third is the aviation security operatives (AVSEC) who are supposed to man the tarmac 24 hours and the fourth is the security in charge of the aircraft. He breached these four levels of security. The question is, supposed he was a suicide bomber, can you imagine the damage he would have done? So what happened was a major security breach,â€ the source said.
The spokesman of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye, and his counterpart at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, said the two agencies have started investigation into the incident.
Aviation security agent who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told THISDAY that until AVSEC officials fully take over the security apparatus of the airports and until they are allowed to carry guns, these security breaches â€œwill be a regular narrative at the airports because the police and other security operatives are not trained on how to secure the airports so they are more of a distraction. I hope that government should take a critical action now by arming the aviation security agents who are endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as the recognised airport security; or they train the police on aviation security.â€