The private jet conveying two top Nigerian musical artists, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun aka Wizkid and Tiwa Savage from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital was reportedly robbed on Tuesday night at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), 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 at about 8:33p.m and was slowly taxiing to the arrival hangar when the cargo compartment was burgled.
Reports said the jet 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 (FAAN) security but the burglars had disappeared before FAAN officials could make it to where the attack took place,” a source said.
THISDAY also gathered that Tiwa Savage and Wizkid upon arrival at Quits Aviation Centre, a private jet hangar, the pilot discovered that two of their bags had been stolen by the airport bandits.
It was further gathered that the burglary was similar to the one that happened a fortnight ago when a business jet from Istanbul that arrived the Lagos airport to pick a passenger was also attacked on the same taxiway of the Lagos airport.
It was learnt that many aircraft that arrive and take off from the Lagos airport are not escorted as FAAN has only one escort vehicle for arriving and departing aircraft for the entire airport which handles over 200 flights everyday.
A former Chief Security Officer of the MMIA told THISDAY that he was disturbed when he first heard of the incident and doubted the possibility of it happening at the Runway 18L where the incident actually happened.
“I was disturbed when I read the report because I don’t see that happening at Runway 18L where the aircraft taxied from to the EAN facility. If it is Runway 19R one could say that somebody can hide there because that area is bushy. So it will be difficult for anybody to come to that part of the runway because Caverton Helicopters is building a facility there, so the area is busy and nobody can get there without being seen,” he said.
There are indications; however, that the movement of the people who work at projects located at the runway area create the security breach that enables suspected criminals to have access to the runway of the airport.
The source also expressed worry over the report that there was only one patrol vehicle to escort planes on the runway and described such as unfortunate.
He noted that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had directed that every aircraft on takeoff and landing should be escorted, adding that there should be two escort vehicles for the international terminal of the airport, one for General Aviation Terminal (GAT), one for the domestic terminal, MMA2 and one for business aviation, Quits Aviation Terminal.
However, FAAN management in a statement signed by its spokesman, Mrs, Henrietta Yakubu, denied the possibility of such theft and said that it was not possible for anyone to burgle an aircraft in motion.
It said because aircraft are highly technical machines, it is practically impossible for anyone who does not have the requisite training and competence to operate or tamper with the baggage compartment.
“It would be recalled that two incidents of alleged poaching were recently reported, the latest being that which occurred on a chartered flight from Uyo to Lagos on December 26, 2017.
“The authority noted that in both instances, preliminary findings from investigations conducted by an inter-agency committee set up to probe the allegations could not substantiate the claims. The purported victims in the said cases also did not make themselves available for questioning, in the quest to unravel the case,” the statement said.
FAAN said investigations are still ongoing and it would like to reassure travellers and the public that with the level of safety and security systems on ground at the airports, it was practically impossible for an aircraft to be burgled within “our runways and aprons.”