The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has moved swiftly to cover up the late night embarrassing burglaries and poaching of aircraft rampart in the taxiways of the Lagos airport. The scandal blown open by SaharaReporters had revealed how two private jets were attacked while taxiing on the runway had luggage stolen from their cargo holds on the runway of Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos. In a press statement distributed to the press by its Corporate Communications Manager, Henrietta Yakubu, FAAN claims that a committee set up to investigate the December 12th attack on Vistajet could not ascertain the veracity of the recent attack on a Bombardier Challenger 605 jet with registration number T7-A00 on runway 18R.
SaharaReporters, however, is standing by its earlier story on the attacks on the jets as corroborated by a Nigerian hip-hop artist, Tiwa Savage, who took to her Instagram page yesterday to vent her frustration about the incident that occurred on December 26th, 2017.
Ms. Savage and Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun aka “Wizkid” were aboard the chartered private jet from Uyo in Akwa Ibom state when upon landing in Lagos, their pilot, Cloud Cote announced to the consternation of passengers and his crew that his dashboard showed that someone had opened the cargo door while waiting on the runway for an Ethiopian air cargo plane to push back and take off. The pilot radioed the control tower to alert security officials to express his concerns but a combined team of airport security officials including the police, Nigerian Airforce and Department of State Services did not arrive to help the pilot and his crew until the burglars had stolen Ms. Savage and Wizkid's bags and closed the cargo door and disappeared into the thin air. An incident report sighted by SaharaReporters showed that an entry was made by FAAN security officials noting the incident which exact time the incident was reported and all the actors involved.
However, to forestall any embarrassment, airport officials assured Wizkid and Ms. Savage who were visibly agitated by the theft of their luggage to allow them to retrieve the bags, even promising to compensate them if they agree to keep mute over the incident.
While Wizkid agreed to await the completion of the investigations, Ms. Savage did not agree to the terms, instead of keeping quiet she went on her Instagram page to detail her experience including a blow-by-blow account of how the pilot delivered the sad news to them while still on the taxiway.
The latest cover-up is coming as a top management staff of Evergreen Apple Nigeria (EAN) Ltd, the company that manages the Vistajet burgled on December 12 today reiterated to SaharaReporters that the incident truly occurred on the "18R" runway of the airport.
The source told our SaharaReporters that the management of FAAN three days after the story went viral on SaharaReporters, set up a "security committee" to investigate the incident where EAN confirmed the incident and provided the committee with solid evidence.
The source said that the female pilot of the poached aircraft, Captain Emma Heering, stayed on the runway before taxiing for 30 seconds in between which the attack on the aircraft occurred on December 12.
According to the source, the attack on the aircraft was an insider’s job, stressing that anyone without proper knowledge of operations of an aircraft could not have poached a moving aircraft.
The source confirmed that FAAN has only one "escort vehicle", which follows aircraft whenever they land or when they are about taking off, but declared that the vehicle is only put into operations during the day while it hardly works at night.
It would be recalled that the poaching on the jet took place at 9:17 pm on the day of the incident.
Another source who is a top staff of FAAN confirmed the December 12 incident to SaharaReporters stating that the hasty statement issued today smacks of irresponsibility on the part FAAN's leadership. The source stated that FAAN was pushed to the wall by Ms. Savage's social media posts which they believed could put the airport's certification in jeopardy.
The FAAN staff emphasized that it was not the first time such an incident would be happening at the airport, adding that apart from small aircraft, which are susceptible to attack, big aircraft in the mode of Boeing 737 are frequently attacked on the runway at night.
He explained that it is usually difficult for airline operators or the owners of any missing luggage to trace the particular airport the luggage got missing, stressing that this was why the nation’s airports record high number of missing luggage regularly.
The source like the EAN management staff insisted that anyone without the knowledge of operations of aircraft could not poached a stationary or a moving airplane, revealing that the knob of an aircraft could be opened from outsideafter landing.
The source said: ‘FAAN is economical with the truth on this incident. Though, the combined security committee invited us for questioning and we provided them with all the necessary information to prove to them that the aircraft was actually poached.
“We know why FAAN is talking like this. It’s because the airport was just about three months ago certified for safety and security by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). We know the effect this would have on the airport and even the regulatory authority. This is not the first time such incidents would be happening at on the runway or any other airport for that matter, but this is the first time it is really coming to the open. It’s a pity that it happened, but we have to tell the world the entire truth.”
Also, a document made available to SaharaReporters indicated that at least 8,686 of air travellers’ luggage in Nigeria were either missing or delayed on arrival in the third quarter of 2017.
Within the same period, there were 44 pilfering or other complaints concerning passengers’ luggage at all the nation’s airports.
The document indicated that foreign airlines were the major culprits in the missing luggage issue. The document indicated that 8,660 of the missing luggage involved international carriers while just 26 occurred on indigenous airlines.
However, 7,693 of the missing luggage were later found while 993 of such luggage could still not be traced to date.
It would be recalled that SaharaReporters had about two weeks ago broke the news of a poaching incident on the runway of Lagos Airport.
A Vistajet with the registration number 9H-VFA was attacked by unknown bandits while taxiing to apron. The incident occurred on the night of Tuesday, December 12, 2017 when the jet was taxiing to the apron.
After the investigation had revealed that a big black bag belonging to the air hostess, named Francesca Louis was missing from the jet.