15 Mar 2015
By Chinedu Eze
Ground workers at the international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, were shocked on Saturday morning when the dead body of a man in his mid-40s dropped from the wheel-well of Arik Air aircraft being prepared for another flight to New York.
According to security officials, the body, which had started decomposing, must have been in the wheel-well since Wednesday, March 11 when the aircraft had its last flight from New York.
This was another stowaway, who sneaked into the wheel-well of the massive Airbus A340-500 aircraft, hoping to hide there and get to New York; but instead of arriving at the JFK Airport, New York alive, it was his dead body that came back and fell at the tarmac.
The first instinctive action of the airport workers was to run away; then they later came back to look at the corpse and called a doctor from the Port Health who looked at the body and ordered for body bag and protective gears to examine it. It was later taken away to the mortuary.
THISDAY learnt that security operatives at the airport could not say precisely what happened and how the dead man was able to access the airside of the airport and sneaked into the wheel-well of the aircraft.
But, two years ago a similar tragic incident happened when the dead body of a young man dropped on the tarmac in a similar way from another New York to Lagos flight and it was later learnt that the deceased gave N100,000 to an airport official to procure US visa for him, but when he could not succeed in doing that, he helped him sneak into the wheel-well of the aircraft.
His dead body later returned to Nigeria.
An official of the airline and others attributed it to laxity of the airport security and the porosity of the airside of the Lagos airport.
A security official at the airport told THISDAY that this was the fifth stowaway in recent times and admitted that security officials, especially the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Aviation Security (AVSEC) officials, who have unrestrained access to the tarmac should be held responsible for all the security breaches concerning stowaway at the airport.
A pilot told THISDAY that AVSEC officials compromise and collect bribes to allow people with prohibited goods to go to the aircraft with such goods and insisted that those people who access the aircraft at the tarmac must have done so with the connivance of security officials.
“It is the poor security system that should be held responsible for this. The security at the airport is poor and government is building terminals to generate revenue when there is no security. Now, we are talking of a body but suppose it was bomb that was taken to the aircraft, you can imagine what would have happened. As long as we have airports that are porous; as long as the security officials can compromise, this problem will never stop. There is no CCTV at the tarmac; the place is not fully lighted. We should be happy that it is not bomb that was taken into the aircraft,” the pilot said.
In providing details of the unfortunate incident, FAAN stated that men of the Airport Police Command had evacuated the remains of a suspected stowaway discovered in the undercarriage compartment of an Arik Air aircraft – Airbus A340-500, Reg CS-TFX at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on March 14, 2015.
“The corpse, whose identity is yet to be ascertained, has been deposited at an undisclosed mortuary, following due diligence by the relevant aviation and security agencies.”
The agency gave the assurance that “the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria is currently reviewing footages of the CCTV system and airside security operations with a view to identifying the gaps and personnel failure, if any, in order to take remedial actions”
It added that it had intensified efforts at improving security and safety at both land and airside through the installation of high tech screening machines, CCTV surveillance cameras and patrol teams.