'Stowaway boy thought Arik plane was US-bound'
THE teenage boy, Daniel Ihekina, who flew from Benin to Lagos in the tyre hole of an Arik plane thought he was on a US-bound flight.
He flew from Benin Airport to Lagos airport, where he was detected on arrival and arrested by airport security forces.
A PUNCH report quoting unnamed source at the Benin Airport said the boy's parents had already departed for Lagos in search of the stowaway.
The airport source, who did not want his name in print, said, 'From what we heard, the boy said he was being maltreated and tried to escape from his parents. He thought he was on his way to the US.
'The parents have travelled to Lagos by road, to get him back.'
Meanwhile, investigations revealed that the boy had been handed over to the operatives of the State Security Services for further investigation.
The General Manager, Corporate Communications, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mr. Yakubu Dati, who also confirmed the development, said the aviation security personnel of the agency had handed over the young voyager to the men of the SSS for extensive investigation.
Dati said, 'The residential address the boy gave to us was traced to a church in Benin by our airport manager and his team. So, there is need to hand over the teenager to the SSS who are experts in such investigations. They will carry out further investigation on the matter.'
The FAAN spokesman said the nature and circumstances surrounding the crime informed the agency decision to hand over the stowaway to the SSS operatives.
Meanwhile, following the Benin Airport incident, FAAN has adopted the 'risk amelioration processes to safeguard flight operations' at all its 22 airports across the country.
Dati stressed that the agency had tightened its risk amelioration procedure to ensure that similar incident did not occur again.
He also said the agency had prioritised the perimeter fencing of all the 22 airports in the country.
'In the meantime, we have adopted risk amelioration processes to safeguard flight operations. As a result of this incident in Benin, we have further tightened our risk amelioration procedure to ensure that a similar incident does not occur,' he said.
However, FAAN has also continued to trade blame with Arik Air over the Benin incident.
The agency, in a statement on Sunday, said it 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 whatsoever for such a 'serious security breach.'
FAAN said its preliminary investigation had revealed that Arik did not give accurate account of the Benin Airport incident.
Giving the accounts of its preliminary findings, FAAN said, '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. Safety and security breaches occur when all the checks in the system are beaten. Given that security is a responsibility for all players in this industry, a critical last opportunity to detect and prevent this stowaway was offered and had the airline taken the information by passengers as seriously as they should have, this incident would have been avoided.'