The Ethiopian government yesterday said five Nigerians were among the 193 passengers on board the Rome-bound Ethiopian Airplane, Boeing 767 hijacked yesterday.
The Ethiopian minister of information and communication, Redwan Hussein, who confirmed this during a news conference in Addis Ababa yesterday, said other passengers included 140 Italians, 11 Americans among others.
He apologised to the passengers for the "undue emotional stress and inconvenience they faced in the course of the hijack."
He said the suspected hijacker, whose name was given as Hailemedihn Abera Tegegn, 31, was under custody pending investigation by authorities of the two countries.
According to him, the Ethiopian government and its Swiss counterpart are making efforts to expedite the travel of flight 702 passengers to their intended destination.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Flight 702, with 202 passengers and flight crew left the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa at 12.30am local time and was due to land in Rome, Italy at 04:40am local time.
However, the plane was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Geneva at 6am local time, according to the Airlines' statement issued early yesterday.
Hussein said the act of the said asylum seeking co-pilot was in violation of article 32 of the Ethiopian Constitution, which guaranteed the freedom of citizens to travel out of the country.
"It also represents a gross betrayal of trust that needlessly endangered the lives of the very passengers that a pilot is morally and professionally obliged to safeguard."
He commended the Switzerland government for the care it provided for the passengers and the prompt apprehension of the suspect.
Hussein confirmed that the suspect allegedly locked the cockpit door when the pilot went to the toilet and hijacked the aircraft.
The official said that the suspect, who is seeking asylum from the Switzerland government, was being questioned by the Swiss Police.