The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has blamed Arik Air for negligence that led a teenager to stow away in its aircraft that brought him from Benin to Lagos at the weekend.
It expressed the determination of the Nigerian aviation authorities to probe how the teenage boy managed to hide inside the undercarriage of the plane.
Airport security arrested the stowaway teenager on Saturday following the alarm by passengers who saw him emerge from the undercarriage of the 45-minute Arik flight from Benin, officials said.
"We have launched an investigation into the incident. This is a clear case of security breach," FAAN spokesman, Mr. Yakubu Dati, told AFP.
He said Arik should be blamed for the incident because the airline failed to act when the boy was sighted on the tarmac before the plane left Benin. According to him, the flight should have been aborted and the plane returned to the apron for check-up.
Arik however said in a statement that it was shocked by the incident, wondering "how the teenager beat the aviation security personnel at the Benin airport to get to the runaway."
"We are worried by the incessant security lapses at our airports. We are appealing to the management of FAAN to immediately address the problem," it added. Officals said the boy identified as Daniel Ihekina had been detained and was undergoing interrogation.
Its reaction drew the ire of FAAN, which berated Arik Air for accusing it of not properly securing the Benin airport. FAAN in a statement by Dati said the agency was unfairly indicted while the airline took no responsibility for such a serious security breach.
It said: "The facts of the matter as FAAN's investigation has revealed, are completely different to the Arik account. The facts of the stowaway incident are as follows: On Saturday, August 24th, 2013 at about 0905hrs, Arik flight 544 departed Benin Airport for Lagos. The normal runway inspections were conducted by FAAN security at 0730hrs and 0850hrs. These runway inspections are conducted routinely all day, every day, by a FAAN security patrol team and are aimed at preventing animal and human incursions unto the aircraft manoeuvring areas of the airfield.
"Our investigations reveal that a passenger on board the flight called the attention of the cabin crew while the aircraft was waiting to take off at the threshold of the runway, to the effect that they had seen a young boy walking under the aircraft and had not seen him reappear on either side. The cabin crew in turn informed the pilots in the cockpit about this. The pilots called the control tower and asked them to request FAAN to do a sweep of the area after their departure, opting to carry on with their flight despite the report."
FAAN also said while FAAN took the security breach extremely seriously, "we deem Arik's attempt at indicting and smearing FAAN as irresponsible. Safety and security breaches occur when all the checks in the system are beaten. Given that security is a responsibility for all players in this industry, a critical last opportunity to detect and prevent this stowaway was offered and had the airline taken the information by passengers as seriously as they should have, this incident would have been avoided."
With Agency Report