Expert seeks personnel audit over Air Peace burglary incident

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An aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), has called for an audit of all airport personnel in view of recent reports of aircraft invasion at Lagos airport.

A domestic carrier, Air Peace, on Thursday night delayed a flight to Abuja after the pilot discovered that the cargo hold had been tampered with.

Ojikutu told our correspondent that only an insider with the knowledge of aircraft compartment could have attempted to break into it.

He added, “We have to start looking inwards; there are so many people at the airport, especially those at the airside that are not supposed to be there. There are people who have been disengaged but still go about with their pass. So it is difficult to differentiate them from those who are still engaged.

“The airport is too porous and like I have always said, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the airlines and even the ground handling companies need to come together to work on this audit.”

The Corporate Communications Manager of Air Peace, Mr. Chris Iwarah, who confirmed the Thursday night incident, said it happened at about 7:35pm.

He said, “We are sincerely grateful to all our wonderful guests on board Flight 7138 for their support, patience and cooperation throughout the precautionary security checks conducted by Explosive Ordinance Disposal squad, FAAN Aviation Security and our security team after suspected thieves opened the cargo hold of our aircraft holding for departure on Runway 18R (A1) of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos at about 7.35pm on Thursday, February 08, 2018.

“The pilot, Capt. Adesola Arasi, had to contact control tower when he was alerted by the light that came on in the cockpit, suggesting that the cargo hold was opened for about 15 seconds and immediately shut. In line with our high security standards and the huge value we place on the lives of our guests and crew, Capt. Arasi insisted on having EOD squad check on Flight APK 7138 before takeoff to be doubly sure nothing was deposited in the cargo hold by the suspected thieves to endanger the lives of our guests and crew.”

He said the flight eventually took off at 9.30pm and safely landed in Abuja at about 10.23pm.

Ojikutu said stealing from aircraft, which was common in the 1990s, was returning and should be checked, adding that a new perimeter fence should be built as the current one was too low and porous.

“This type of incident is very common on the 18 Right because it is close to the very porous perimeter fence and hidden from the operational people, and except they have a secondary perimeter fence, the incident may continue. FAAN should organise itself, go round the fence and figure out what happens there too,” he said.

Meanwhile, the FAAN’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, has said the agency has set up a committee to look into recent security breaches at the airport.

Yakubu told our correspondent that the committee, made up of all the security agencies at the airport, would come up with a report that would help in solving problems of safety and security.

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