Quasi-News & Commentary

by Wordworks2001

Nigeria has had a bad reputation for aircraft safety for decades. Africa’s most populous nation does have very busy airports and it is widely known that most aircraft accidents occur when there is bad weather, a problem with the runway, or when navigational aids are not working properly. However, on November 18, a man was caught with explosives at the Lagos International Airport, Mohammed Murtla Airport.

Airport security detained and arrested a Nigerian man with a bag of explosives who tried to get on a Bellview Airlines Flight to Abuja, the nation’s capitol. This has caused security officials to question if some of the country’s air disasters may have been terrorist related.
On October 25, an Nigerian ADC Airlines 737 crashed in Abuja, killing 103 persons. Earlier in the year, a planeload of Nigerian military officers perished when their plane traveling from Abuja to Calabar crashed. Seventy six died in that incident. On December 10, 2005, a Nigerian Sosoliso Airliner went down in Port Harcourt, killing 106. In October that year, 117 lost their lives when a Nigerian Bellview airliner taking off from Lagos crashed.
Is it a coincidence that all of these events occurred on Saturdays or Sundays, including the arrest of the man with explosives on November 18? Does Nigeria need to increase its security at the domestic terminal at the airport? Nigerians fear flying on domestic airliners any more and these questions must be answered.
It already has been reported and confirmed that the State Security Service (SSS), is working on the link between a text message sent to some “top government functionaries” and the air mishaps involving the airliners. This Day newspaper reported the story. The message was captioned ‘Breaking Silence from Concerned Aviation Workers (CAW)’, and ran thus: “We, aviation workers did the Bellview, Sosoliso, and today’s ADC aircrash. We are equipped with over 100 automated remote-controlled explosives stored in 20 airport. “Our demands: Pay Nigeria Airways’ workers all (their) entitlements. Release (report of) Onwuzita (panel) of Inquiry. Remove (Professor Babalola) Borisade as Aviation Minister. Pay to avoid Arik Air and Virgin Nigeria (becoming victims). Same message sent to Captain M. Joji, secretary-general, Private NMPERATO.”
The natural inclination is to write this text message off as a cheesy extortion attempt by disgruntled and underpaid aviation workers. But the climate of militancy in Nigeria’s Niger Delta causes one to wonder whether or not there is more to the story than meets the eye.
When passengers on a NICON Airlines plane read the identity of airlines whose Air Operating Certificates (AOCs) were suspended in the newspapers they had just purchased before boarding the plane , the passengers on the flight that had just taken off from Abuja nearly panicked and demanded the aircraft return to the airport upon reading the story when airborne, according to The Vanguard.
The heaviest flying season is only weeks away. If the Federal Government is unable to insure passenger safety, how will this effect domestic air travel in Nigeria. The nation’s roadway system is a mess, trains don’t run everywhere people want to go and the airline system is unreliable. What is a holiday traveler to do?
And Nigerian domestic air travelers have even more to be concerned about today. A story in today’s Vanguard reported an announcement by Nigerian Aviation Minister, Chief Gani Fani-Kayode yesterday, that a week before explosives meant to be loaded into the Abuja bound Bellview airlines flight were intercepted, security officials had discovered similar explosives that had been loaded into another flight 45 minutes before it was meant to explode.
The minister continued, “A week before we intercepted these combustible, dangerous an illegal material, there was another incident whereby illegal, combustible material in the same way, were placed in a plane by a courier company in Abuja. The courier company people who were supposed to have checked the cargoes-maybe they checked and didn’t care, because their relatives were not on the plane – placed these materials on the plane (Bellview) here in Abuja.”The MD (Managing Director) of Belleview is here to confirm. Nobody knew what was in it. Because once a courier company says it is all clear, then you don’t open it. That was the practice before now. That had been the practice! You just assume he was telling you the truth. They put these materials on the plane. And they got to Lagos.

“When they got to Lagos, it became clear to the Bellview people that there was something wrong – because the boxes had started expanding. So they opened them. In the cause of that, they found, illegal combustible materials. It is illegal in the sense that they were not supposed to be on that flight. Because the pressure mechanism has triggered off the mechanism within these material. And they were expanding. Give that flight another 45 minutes in the air. Or if that flight had been delayed or has been hovering over Lagos, that plane would have exploded. That plane would have come down.

“You don’t have to have a high density bomb in the plane to make it dangerous,” he said.

The US Department of State’ Counsular Information sheet on Nigeria, specifically mentions the domestic airlines. ”

Most Nigerian airlines have aging fleets, and maintenance and operational procedures may be inadequate to ensure passenger safety. The crashes of Bellview Air on October 22 and Sosoliso Air on December 10 resulted in numerous deaths. On December 19, a Bellview flight made an emergency landing.

Because international flights tend to meet higher safety standards than domestic Nigerian flights, travelers should attempt to get direct international flights to/from their Nigerian destination, rather than transiting another Nigerian city such as Lagos. For domestic travel between Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, the U.S. Government encourages its employees to use Virgin Nigeria Airlines or Aero Contractors. For destinations not served by these airlines, personnel may use other domestic airlines if such travel is deemed safer than travel by road.”

The most recent air crash in Nigeria of the ADC airline, took aviation authorities by surprise. Former minister of aviation, Prof. Babalola Borishade has blamed the crash on poor discretion on the part of the pilot. According to the Minister three aircrafts belonging to Aerocontractor, Virgin Nigeria and the crashed ADC were to take off before the control tower told them to hold on for some minutes because of bad weather. While the other two complied; the ADC pilot according to him informed the control room that he would taxi to take-off point and wait, only to get there and informed the control tower that he had to take off immediately.

Weather, pilot error, old airplanes — a deadly cocktail to remember when traveling this holiday season. It’s always nice to go home this time of the year, but its even better to get there and back in one piece!

Wordworks 2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant who lives in Indiana and works in NIgeria. He blogs at http://wordworks2001.blogspot.com.

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2 users commented in " Man Caught With Explosives at Lagos International Airport "

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chukwu sunday said,
in June 11th, 2008 at 3:55 am

i want to inform the authourities in our international airports to be on a high alert for accomplice who is bound to travell to south africa .he is from A NATIVE of enugu.leaving in ONITSA(ANAMBRA)Doing business in the main market.i have accidentally pumped into this plot that he is heavily paid and sponsored to blow any plane bound to south africa.he is to set on this mission any moment from now.his name is ANIAKO SYDNEY CHINEDU

humza said,
in December 7th, 2009 at 10:55 am

I thing government of Nigeria should follow the international security standards to safe his homeland.

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