It was a serious security breach yesterday when a man suspected to have mental disorder was discovered inside the engine of aircraft already boarded with passengers and about to take off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos to Port Harcourt
Reacting swiftly to the security breach, airport authorities put the two people on duty on suspension pending further investigations.
The man who clutched a bag, which the petrified passengers suspected could contain a bomb, shouted themselves hoarse when the culprit wandered from the engine and climbed to the wing of the aircraft, a Boeing 737 operated by Azman Air.
The man kept walking on and around the aircraft for over 20 minutes before the Aviation Security (AVSEC) officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) could be alerted and they moved in to apprehend and put him in custody.
Industry experts were of the view that if the engines of the aircraft were running, the man would have been sucked in and killed.
THISDAY however learnt that the Captain of the flight had to shut down the engines as the man whose mission was not known inched towards the aircraft.
The airline in a statement confirmed that the pilot “took a preemptive effort to shut down the engines as the same person was noticed wandering around the aircraft and later, he was seen climbing the part of the aircraft in an attempt to gain access to the cabin.”
Reacting to the incident, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu said that its officers responded “swiftly” to the call.
The statement gave the registration number of the aircraft as 5N-HAI, adding that the incident occurred at 10:09a.m. when the aircraft was on clearance for take-off to Port Harcourt.
The statement hinted that the AVSEC had since apprehended the “intruder, who was sighted trying to climb into an Azman aircraft waiting for clearance from Air Traffic Controllers.
“The pilot of the Azman aircraft with registration number 5N-HAI departing Lagos to Port Harcourt reported the incident and AVSEC officials swiftly responded. The man has been apprehended and is now in AVSEC’s custody.”
Yakubu explained that the aircraft immediately taxied back to the apron for a thorough check and departed for Port Harcourt afterwards.
Aviation security experts have expressed alarm at the incident, which they described as major security breach.
The Chairman of Scope Centre, Aviation Security Firm, Bayo Babatunde told THISDAY that what happened was due to the failure of security management system (SMS).
“This is a very high security breach and danger to international aviation. It’s also a failure of the Security Management System. The airside is supposed to be sterile and only authorised persons wearing their approved On Duty Cards should have access. How did the threat evade security procedures? Was he assisted in by one of the concessionaires supply trucks? Did he use the nearby bush and breached the perimeter fences? Was the CCTV working and manned by a diligent personnel? What were the motives? These and several more are urgently begging for answers from thorough investigation of the incidence,” Babatunde said.
Also aviation security consultant and CEO of Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) wondered how the man was able to access the airside of the airport.
“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 airside are properly documented to have access to those areas? How many of them do we have sufficient background checks on them? I need not to say more,” Ojikutu said.
FAAN is yet to confirm medically whether the man was mentally ill and what made him come to attempt to board the aircraft illegally.