TERROR SCARE: ARIK PASSENGERS WRESTLE MAN MID-AIR
Passengers and crew of an Abuja-bound aircraft belonging to Arik Air were thrown into panic on Tuesday when a passenger behaving in a strange manner stood up and screamed Allahu Akbar(God is great) midair.
The scared passengers, who took off from Maiduguri, Borno State, rushed to the strange passenger identified as Aminu Galadima, grabbed him and searched him to ascertain if he had a bomb strapped to his body.
Our correspondent learnt that the situation made the pilot of the aircraft with registration number 5N MJE to immediately radio the Air Traffic Control and airport security operatives.
The Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation on Media, Mr. Joe Obi, confirmed the development in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja.
Obi said the passenger in question went through the necessary security checks at the airport and did not raise any suspicion until he started shouting midair.
He said, 'A passenger, Aminu Galadima, a native of Minna, Niger State, boarded a Maiduguri-Abuja- bound Arik Air aircraft with registration number 5N MJE after going through mandatory security screening.
'Nothing incriminating; no explosives or weapons whatsoever were found on him. However, midair, the passenger began to act strangely, loudly screaming, 'God is great.' Fellow passengers, alarmed by his behaviour rushed to apprehend him.
'A thorough search by fellow passengers and crew members revealed nothing dangerous on him. The pilot immediately radioed Air Traffic Control and airport security operatives.
'The plane landed safely at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at exactly 12.53hrs and the suspect was handed over to the SSS at about 14.45hrs. He is currently being interrogated.'
Obi reassured the flying public of the continued focus of the Ministry of Aviation on the safety and security of the nation's airspace and cautioned Nigerians against spreading dangerous rumours.
Before the official statement by the authorities , rumours had spread that the plane had been bombed.
Arik also confirmed the arrest of the man, but denied that a bomb was found on its plane.
In a statement by its Public Relations and Communications Manager, Mr. Adebanji Ola, the airline said, 'There is no iota of truth in the rumour making the rounds that a passenger attempted to bomb an Arik Air aircraft operating a flight from Maiduguri to Abuja today, Tuesday, October 23, 2012.
'To set the records straight, a passenger on board flight W3 812 from Maiduguri to Abuja caused a scare when he started shouting 'Allah Akbar' shortly before the aircraft landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. The frightened passengers on board the flight became suspicious, thinking the man was about to do something sinister.
'All the passengers on board the flight, including the man in question, had all gone through the normal security checks at the Maiduguri International Airport, and nothing incriminating was found on anyone.
'However, when the aircraft landed in Abuja, another security check was conducted on the passenger and nothing incriminating was found on him. A further security search was conducted on the operating aircraft, a Boeing 737-700 NG, and no trace of bomb or explosives was found. The aircraft went back to service immediately.'
The incident was reminiscent of the December 25, 2009 bomb attempt on a Detroit-bound plane by a Nigerian passenger, Mr. Farouk AbdulMuttalab. The plane took off from Nigeria en route Detroit through Amsterdam.
Barely two weeks after the United States granted Nigeria Category One certification in August 2010, the Nigerian aviation industry and security agencies were thrown into confusion, following an attack on a foreign airline, KLM, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.
An aggrieved, passenger whose identity had been masked by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, had beaten all security measures to launch an attack on a flight scheduled to depart for Amsterdam.
The rising incidence of terror attacks in the Northern part of the country, especially Borno State, from which the Arik Air aircraft originated its journey, had been a source of worry to Nigerians.
Borno State, regarded as terror capital of Nigera, is believed to be home to the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
The group, which was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001, became known internationally following sectarian violence in Nigeria in July 2009 which left over 1,000 people dead.