The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has dismissed claims by Air Peace that its aircraft was burgled.
The air carrier had claimed that the rear cargo hold of its Flight 7138 holding for departure on Runway 18R of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos was opened by thieves on February 8.
But the aviation regulatory body in a statement by its spokesperson, Sam Adurogboye, described the airline’s allegation as ‘unfounded’.
The NCAA stated that their investigation proved that the burglary incident never occurred after it reviewed all the reports from the relevant agencies concerning the incident.
Mr. Adurogboye stated that in line with Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs), aviation security personnel were at the holding point of Runway18R monitoring the departure/ take off of both Air Peace and Arik Air aircraft.
The PIC alarm, he explained, triggered an immediate response, adding that the escort team overtook the Arik aircraft for a more proximate field look and access to the Air Peace aircraft.
“On full speed, with the full lights on, no person(s) was found within the vicinity of the aircraft. Importantly, the Arik aircraft, which was on queue immediately after the Air Peace aircraft, was similarly put on observation at this point.
“The Arik Air aircraft also had its full complement of lights on towards the Air Peace aircraft having been aware of his counterpart’s conversation with the tower.
“With benefit of this full view, neither movement nor any sign of person(s) was sighted around the aircraft.
“At D45, the Airport Chief Security called the NPF-EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) team who reported with their equipment at about 2026hrs. Passengers were disembarked at 2028hrs.
“The EOD team, joined by FAAN (Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria) Aviation Security and Air Peace security, conducted a search on the cargo compartment and the passenger cabin of the aircraft.”
He noted that the search was completed at about 2055hrs and the aircraft was declared safe by the EOD Team leader and the flight departed and landed safely at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
“Against this background,” the statement said, “the NCAA came to the conclusion that the Runway 18R burglary report is unproven, largely unsubstantiated and, therefore, should be discountenanced.”
But spokesperson for Air Peace, Chris Iwarah, in a statement said the airline remains unwilling to be drawn into unnecessary controversy with regulatory agencies.
Air Peace described the NCAA’s report on the alleged burglary as “both a lazy and shoddy job at cover-up,” adding that the agency’s claims that “our information on the incident was a false alarm absolutely lacks a basis.”
The statement said, “From the report, it is clear that the only reason for NCAA’s dismissal of the very serious security breach was the claim that when an aircraft of another airline beamed its lights after our pilot alerted the control tower to the incident, the suspected thieves were not seen.
“We need to reiterate that our pilot’s call to control tower was made after the rear cargo hold of our aircraft was opened and shut after 15 seconds.
“We, therefore, begin to wonder whether NCAA expected the suspected thieves to be there waiting after opening and shutting the cargo hold within a space of 15 seconds.”
The airline advised NCAA and other agencies to treat complaints of security breach at airports with the seriousness they deserve rather than “the culture of baseless denial and attempt at cover-up.”
Recall that in 2017, a private jet conveying two top Nigerian pop artists, Ayodeji Balogun aka “Wizkid” and Tiwa Savage from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State was allegedly robbed while taxiing on Murtala Muhammed airport’s runway 18L.
While Ms. Savage took to her social media pages to recount her ordeals, Wizkid kept mute over the matter.
But the FAAN, in its reaction dismissed the claim as incorrect.