Abuja - A teenage stowaway is at the centre of a war of words between Nigeria's national carrier, Arik, and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Daniel Ihekina, successfully hanged on the tyre hole of an Arik aircraft from Benin to Lagos on Saturday.
He is said to have bounded the plane on Saturday afternoon as it prepared to take off and was later spotted on arrival at the Lagos Airport by passengers as he alighted under the plane.
Arik Head of Corporate Communications, Ola Banji, said the incident could have avoided if FAAN “had done its job” after Arik pilot informed security at the airport about the presence of a boy around the plane before take off.
Ola said FAAN officials at the Benin Airport gave the Aircraft permission to take off without doing a thorough sweep of the area where the boy was reportedly seen.
“The management of Arik Air has expressed shock over the incident wondering how the teenager beat the Aviation Security personnel at the Benin Airport to get to the runway.
"We are worried by the incessant security lapses at our airports. We are appealing to the management of FAAN to immediately address the problem,”
FAAN's General Manager of Corporate Communications, Yakubu Dati, however expressed “shock” over the statement released by Arik on the incident.
Dati, in a statement, said he read with "great dismay the statement released by Arik Airlines about the stowaway found on board Arik's flight
544 from Benin to Lagos on Saturday 24 August, 2013."
Dati said FAAN was "unfairly indicted" while the airline took no responsibility for such a "serious security breach."
FAAN said its preliminary investigation revealed that Arik did not give accurate account of the Benin Airport incident.
"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 walk under the aircraft and had not seen him re-appear on the other 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.
"Upon the arrival of the aircraft in Lagos, we were informed that there had been a stowaway found alive alighting from the wheel well of the aircraft. While FAAN takes this security breach extremely seriously, we deem Arik's attempt at indicting and smearing FAAN as irresponsible.”
A stowaway is a person who secretly boards a vehicle to travel without paying and without being detected.
Poor perimeter security at a number of airports in Africa and in other parts of the world can make it easier for people to stow away on planes.
Stowaways in aircraft wheel wells face numerous health risks, many of which are fatal.
- CAJ News