A teenage boy hid in the wheel well of a Nigerian plane and survived a 35-minute domestic flight which reportedly carried top government officials as passengers.
The Arik Air flight took off from southern Benin City on Saturday morning then landed in the commercial capital of Lagos. But when passengers disembarked from the aircraft, a boy—13 or 14, an Arik spokesman said—emerged from the undercarriage to join fellow travelers, notes Punch, and pandemonium ensued.
The stowaway was identified as Daniel Ihekina, Punch adds; he was arrested.
Arik said its pilot had reported to the control tower that a boy was seen in the bush near the runway and that the tower told the pilot security was on the way to arrest the boy. But while the plane was moving toward takeoff, passengers alerted the crew that they saw the boy running toward the plane; Arik says, however, that the tower told them the situation was under control and they were cleared for takeoff, Punch notes.
The aircraft with registration number 5N-MJG Flight 44, which left the Benin Airport around 9am for Lagos, was said to have on board top officials of the Edo State Government, Punch reports.
According to a passenger aboard the flight who spoke with Punch:
“We felt the signs in Benin when the plane was about leaving and as it was moving slowly, we heard a loud noise as if the tyre crushed somebody on the ground and we all started shouting. It means the boy was already inside that tyre compartment before we left. We left for Lagos, but when we landed at Lagos Airport, the boy came out from the tyre hole, everybody started shouting.
“But speaking seriously, this shows that we have a serious problem as regards securing our airports. This is a serious security breach. If that boy was carrying bomb, it means he would have succeeded in blowing up the plane. How can somebody be in an aircraft without being detected; we are in trouble in this country.”
The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria stated that it held “Arik Air liable for the circumstances leading to the stowaway of a teenage boy on its aircraft at the Benin Airport," and that the airline "acted with impunity by not stopping the aircraft to check when the crew and ground personnel’s attention was drawn to an abnormality on the tarmac.”But Arik Air managing director Chris Ndulue blames the FAAN: “We are worried by the incessant security lapses at our airports," he said in a statement and wondered "how the teenager beat the aviation security personnel at the Benin Airport to get to the runway.”
In 2010, a young Nigerian tried to smuggle himself to the United States but died in the wheel well of a Delta Airlines aircraft after it landed in New York, Punch reports.
In 2012, the dead body of a young Nigerian was found in the wheel well of a Nigerian airline after it returned from South Africa, Punch adds.