Arik Air – The Stowaway Sagas

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FOR the third time in four years, a stowaway ‘flew’ Arik Air, the largest commercial airline in   Nigeria. In October, 2012, the lifeless body of a stowaway was found in the hold of Arik’s Lagos-New York flight.

Many wondered how he made it to America in that manner. September 2013, 14-year-old boy, Daniel Oikhena, stowed away in an Arik Air Benin City-Lagos flight. The boy, who hid in the tyre compartment, miraculously survived the flight and became an instant sensation. According to him, he thought the flight was America-bound, and had hoped to fulfill his life ambition of a trip overseas. His misadventure ended on a positive note: the Edo State Government

awarded him a scholarship. Some had argued then that the treatment accorded Daniel could motivate more to risk a repeat of his “wonder” flight to America. Could that be the case? Or are there success stories of stowaways that sustain these ambitious adventures?

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A major surprise the other week was the discovery of another unidentified dead body in the hold of yet another Arik Air flight to New York. The intense attention to the elections could have denied the

matter more media space. We wonder why it had to be Arik again. What loopholes encourage stowaways to target Arik? Why have the regulatory authorities watched askance over these incidents? What are the contributions of the authorities to these incidents? Are they unaware

of their implications?

The two dead persons could be blamed for their death, but it does not detract from the fact that between the airline and the regulatory agencies a lot of work is not being done. Whether through negligence or criminal collusion, something is gravely wrong with a security system that stowaways can beat. For the incidents to continue for this long is absolutely intolerable.

Nigeria’s heightened security creates more worries around these incidents. Unless immediate actions are taken to arrest the ominous security laxity at the airports operations, the mind boggles at what could happen to lives and property of innocent travellers one ugly day. The issue is not about a particular airline, it is about all-round airport and airlines operations security and safety.

Law enforcement agencies and the aviation regulators should swing into action, identify the lapses, and address them. Apart from the danger to the lives, public and private property, these incidents do not augur well for the safety rating of Nigerian airlines. Arik must make a thorough check of its systems. It is impossible for anyone to make the tarmac without appropriate security clearances. The priority of the authorities should be to deal comprehensively with layers of criminality that feed these incidents. Courtesy:vanguard.