BEYOND Arik staff's heist of Aviation fuel
Back then in the Catholic Senior Seminary nearly two decades now, we were told by a certain lecturer that in Africa wonders shall never end. With time and following series of emerging experiences that seemed bizarre and out- of -this World that have occurred in Nigeria over multiple times, it is safe to assume that the saying will be reframed and rephrased to look this way- ''In Nigeria wonders shall never end''.
Let me prove to you that I am not blabbing. Was it not in this current dispensation in Nigeria's politics that a sitting senator from Zamfara state and indeed the former governor of that state jetted off to Egypt and brought with him a 'human trophy' back to Abuja in the name of marriage and as events unfolded it emerged that the 'virgin' imported into Nigeria from Egypt is the thirteen year old child bride that this senator married in no other place but Abuja the Nigerian capital. Mind you there is an extant legislation known as the Child Rights Act of the year 2003 passed and signed into law by the National Assembly and the President. This piece of law bans child marriage and imposed several grave judicial penalties including time in prison for any convicted paedophile in Nigeria but the Nigerian State looked the other way whilst this senator went home with his child bride and Heavens haven't fallen. National Anti-Human Trafficking Agency known as NAPTIP connived with this powerful politician to subvert the law against child marriage.
Another sample is not far fetched. In Britain where I am penning this piece the killing of even a toddler by any way suspicious including through avoidable vehicular accident is viewed as a serious matter which would immediately tasked the state to commence rapid and comprehensive investigation including coroner inquiry to determine the remote and immediate causes of the death of that toddler and if any person is indicted of any criminal breach such a person is appropriately charged with the speed of lightening but what do you see in Nigeria my homeland, one hundred worshippers perished in a certain Church owned by an influential self acclaimed prophet in Lagos and several weeks and months after this unfortunate mass deaths caused by the collapsed of the Church owned hotel facilities suspected of having been built illegally, the judicial probe set up belatedly by the Lagos state government is moving at an astonishing snail speed and the main character had the privilege of been visited by the President of the Republic and sadly the majority of the casualties are foreign visitors who visited in search of miracles. Relatedly, well, over fifteen thousand Nigerians have been massacred in the last three years by the dreaded Boko Haram armed Islamists fighting in the North East of Nigeria but not up to ten persons have been jailed for these dastardly and atrocious acts of terrorism and barbarity. It is not for want of political will on the side of the Federal Government alone but even the civil society; community and religious based organizations have conveniently gone to bed and are not making any deliberate effort to put the central and state governments under intense pressure to institute strong and effective prosecution of those armed fighters arrested and accused of some of these range of mass killings. In no time these arrested terrorist may be granted soft landing if some of their sponsors manage to win the next elections.
With the above strange developments in mind, the recent disclosure by the Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka, that the ministry has arrested three Arik Air staff for stealing fuel from an aircraft may just pass as one of those unusual happenings that have become the usual in Nigeria of the twenty first century and these culprits may as well be let off the hook even as the nation will not take time to reflect extensively on the larger implication of this type of heist which on the longer run has the diabolical capacity of causing air disasters if it was not noticed. Mind you Arik is the largest private airline in Nigeria and indeed the only very few with a good safety record. So I ask has some rival airlines sent these moles on an assignment to derail this lofty safety record of this company?
Media reports stated that Mr. Chidoka said on his official Facebook page that the trio of Blessing Dugbe, Samuel Asuquo and Isaac Ajakaiye were arrested at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, during a security patrol operation on Sunday at about around 3 a.m.
Mr. Chidoka said the trio were stealing Jet A1 fuel from Arik Air plane, with registration number: 5N-MID into six jerry cans for sales at cheaper price to other unsuspecting airline operators.
“A development that has capacity, to threaten safety and security of airplanes.. Meanwhile, the three (3) suspects were handed over to the Crime Investigation Bureau (CIB), AVSEC MMIA for further action,” Mr. Chidoka said.
He said in the aviation industry's fight against corruption and security breaches, other chief security officers and heads of aviation security have been alerted and directed to intensify patrol and surveillance operations at various
airports across Nigeria.
He said considering the magnitude of the crime to the security and safety of airplanes, the chief security officer of the Lagos airport has been asked to ensure that the suspects are handed over to the airport police for adequate prosecution.
The last/preceding paragraph completely defeats the essence of crime fighting. Hand them over to these 'egunje' seeking Nigerian Police? Well I am told also that even some officers of the then dreaded Economic and financial crimes commission have started collecting bribes and allowing suspects to have soft landing. I am told also that the prosecution team of this anti-graft agency also engages in the past time of demanding and obtaining huge brown envelopes from suspects to enable them wriggle out of their legal quagmire. But for these concupiscence of the men and officers of the anti-corruption agencies which includes the Independent anti corruption panel[ ICPC] I would have suggested that the three economic saboteurs arrested for stealing aviation fuel should have been dragged to court by EFCC to face charges of not only theft but also charges of economic sabotage. Nigeria in the last three years became a laughing stock in the aviation World when our local planes started falling off the skylines due to poor standards and regulations by the regulatory bodies in the Nigerian aviation industry. Can you now see why these three thieving staffers of Arik should be dealt with decisively if found guilty by the competent courts of law? Many cases handled by the Nigerian Police have ended up in muddy waters. What of the murdered Miss Osokogu's case and the case of the murdered four University of Port Harcourt students killed by villagers in Aluu, Ikwere, Rivers State? Nigerian Police have substantially become so compromised that a lot of Nigerians believe that the best way to muddle up a criminal case is to allow the police handle it.
The Minister of Finance Mrs Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala told an audience in a recent public social forum by a Roman Catholic think tank in Nigeria that corruption will continue to thrive in Nigeria so long as the institutions to fight this menace are weak. Now I ask, why is Nigerian state unwilling to make these anti-graft institutions strong and effective? Who is afraid of an effective anti-corruption regime in Nigeria? I also ask why is the Nigerian state and people of Nigeria not bothered about building strong policing institution? Why is everybody comfortable with this dysfunctional dysfunctionality called the Nigerian Police Force? Who is afraid of state and local police? I bet you that these three alleged thieves of the aviation fuel will be set free once they can bribe their way out and the political minister who has made publicity with their case will be busy fighting to return to his juicy post after election in the next few weeks than to monitor closely the case.
Now this is why I said this case will die a premature natural death- we were told that this is not the first time that Arik staff are accused of theft. Passengers have often lamented the loss of one item or the other aboard the airline's flights, so wrote an influential Nigerian online newspaper.
In an exclusive report by an online paper which also broke the story of the aviation fuel theft, in June 2014 some passengers lamented how they lost items ranging from iPad, jewelleries, clothes to perfumes.
A passenger interviewed for that report complained that the lock on her luggage was broken aboard a flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Also, a popular Nigerian blogger, Japhet Omojuwa, once accused the airline's flight attendants of stealing his iPad aboard one of its aircrafts. That the staff of private airlines in Nigeria have graduated into stealing aviation fuel which is capable of endangering aviation safety is a threat to national security and concerted action must be put in place to check this menace and nip it in the bud. Those caught for such dastardly and sinister crime should be treated as economic saboteurs and not just as petty thieves.
The Nigerian people must stand up and shout to high heavens for these aviation fuel thieves to be taught a harsh lesson because if they go scot-free and continue in this atrocity then the lives of passengers would be jeopardised. A stich in time saves nine.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org