A major air mishap was averted on Wednesday as a Max Air jet, which landed on runway 18L of the Lagos airport, almost rammed into a malfunctioning car that was being tested on the runway.
Investigations by The PUNCH revealed that a Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria’s Civil Department van had developed a fault, and officials were forced to invite an auto technician from outside the airport to fix it.
Unconfirmed sources told the newspaper that the FAAN workers resorted to fetching a technician from the city because the agency’s department meant to cater to such a situation probably lacked the applicable personnel.
Findings revealed that after fixing the vehicle, the auto technician decided to carry out a test drive on the runway.
But the FAAN officials who were meant to stay with him while he was fixing the car were said to be nowhere to be found.
It was learnt that the auto technician had called the FAAN officials who invited him to the airport but there was no response. He consequently decided to test-drive the vehicle and headed straight on runway 18L.
Multiple airport officials later confirmed that while the auto technician was test-driving the car on runway 18L, a Max Air plane arriving from Abuja with passengers on board suddenly landed and faced the moving car.
The pilot of the speeding plane was forced to rapidly halt the speeding aircraft’s roll-on process, as he struggled to avoid a collision with the car.
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The pilot immediately put a radio call through to the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency’s air traffic control officials on duty at the control tower who also alerted Aviation Security and airfield officials of FAAN on duty.
The officials immediately rushed to the runway to arrest the auto technician.
A top official of FAAN, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, confirmed the development.
The official identified the auto technician as Opeyemi Soyombo but blamed the agency officials for negligence.
The official said, “Mr Opeyemi Soyombo was apprehended on our airside because of an incursion into the runway. Unfortunately, he shouldn’t have, because all our drivers receive training in airside driving. So, it was negligence on the part of our colleagues to have left someone that has no business on the airside at all.
“The mechanic is not to blame. He doesn’t know the rules. He was just hired to go and repair a vehicle. As far as I’m concerned, the mechanic is not to blame. It is my colleagues that are to blame for leaving someone that has no business being on the airside on the airside. The MD has said they should all be given query for doing that. We are very grateful that we were able to avert what could have been an incident.”
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, confirmed the development.
In a statement, titled ‘Runway incident: FAAN suspends airfield staff, commence investigation,’ the agency said the affected staff members had been suspended.
It said, “Following an averted near-incident involving a Max Air aircraft from Abuja, which landed on Runway 18L, and a maintenance vehicle belonging to the Civil Department of the authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has suspended the airfield officer on duty at the time of the incident.
“The authority has also commenced full-scale investigation into the incident, with a view to preventing future re-occurrence of such incident.”
FAAN had been involved in some major runway and airside incursion incidents in the past.
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There was pandemonium at the airside of the Lagos airport on December 27, 2019 as an unidentified man found his way into the airside mysteriously and mounted a moving Air Peace plane.
The man was later arrested by security operatives who were notified by the pilot of a private jet coming behind the Air Peace plane.
The incident happened barely six months after a man found his way into the Lagos airport and climbed a Port Harcourt-bound Azman Airlines plane.
The man, believed to be mentally ill, was later identified as Usman Adamu from the Republic of Niger.
The Police said the Nigerien could not speak or understand English Language.
The authorities said then that investigation was still ongoing to ascertain how Adamu gained access to the restricted area at the airport.
According to a video clip by one of the Port Harcourt-bound passengers, Adamu was seen entering the fuselage of the aircraft with hand luggage and also climbing one of its wings.
He was later apprehended by Aviation Security Personnel of FAAN and taken to its detention facility before the case was transferred to the Police for further investigation.
Following the development, FAAN placed on indefinite suspension the Aviation Security Unit heads who were on duty when the incident occurred.
Yakubu had in a statement then said the agency viewed the breach as a serious security concern.
She said FAAN had begun an investigation to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the incident to forestall future occurrences.
FAAN has yet to release reports of the cases.
Lynched persons in Kaduna were terrorists from Sudan — Villagers
Birnin-Gwari villagers say the ‘herders’ lynched by a mob in Kaduna State on Sunday were terrorists from the Republic of Sudan.
Chairman of Birnin-Gwari Emirate Progressives Union, Ishaq Kasai, disclosed this in a statement, stressing that the alleged lynched persons were not genuine herdsmen but terrorists.
Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai had condemned in strong words the killing of two herders by a mob in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of the state.
In a statement on Sunday, the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said the security agencies reported that the mob forceably seized the two herders from security personnel on unsubstantiated claims of being linked with banditry.
But BEPU said it was falsely reported that herders were lynched, asserting that those killed were “international criminal syndicates that had been terrorising the Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area.”
The union also attached an ID card allegedly belonging to one of the terrorists.
It stated, “BEPU findings revealed that the alleged lynching occurred after the suspects forcefully snatched a motorcycle from a farmer at the outskirts of Birnin-Gwari main town.
“Therefore, BEPU is concerned to observe that, the statement issued by Government on the issue did not equally capture the true story.
“More so, on the same day when the mob action occurred, one driver was killed and scores were kidnapped at Dogon Hawa and Tabanni areas. This is in addition to killings and kidnapping of the innocent citizens of Birnin-Gwari on the roads, in farms and their homes which have become a daily occurrence.
“BEPU once more, appreciates the effort of security agencies towards restoring peace in our area and urged government officials in showing concerns to any ugly situation to always be in a cautious mood in issuing any statement that is capable of undermining the peace-loving, helpless people that are under siege by the terrorists. This is with view to averting further escalation of the situation.
“Birnin-Gwari Emirate Progressive Union, BEPU, is saddened with the mob action by aggrieved youths in Birnin-Gwari on Sunday 2nd October, 2022 where two alleged “herdsmen” were killed in a cruel and gruesome manner.”
The union expressed appreciation to the security forces for their efforts and successes recorded in sanitising Birnin-Gwari.
It stated, “BEPU, a distinct and peaceful union is clearly against any form of mob action under any guise and is hereby drawing the attention of the citizens not to resort to taking laws in to their hands irrespective of frustration and provocation. Citizens are urged to always channel their grievances to appropriate authorities and above all continue to devote themselves to prayers for divine intervention in the current insecurity situation.
“The union once more appreciates the efforts and successes recorded by the resilient security forces in their efforts to sanitize Birnin-Gwari general area and call on them to step-up the operations into communities that surround Birnin-Gwari town where bandits are currently demanding and forcing communities to pay “protection fee” and crop harvesting levies, respectively.
“Clearly, while the lynching of suspected bandits is highly condemnable, the Union observes with deep concern the way the issue has been reported to selectively and deliberately portray Birnin Gwari in bad taste, and targeted to prove a false narrative on the issue to endanger the helpless innocent citizens of Birnin-Gwari Local Government.”
Islamic Cleric Who Saved Christians, Airport Cleaner Among 437 National Honourees
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has listed an 87-year-old Islamic cleric, Alhaji Abdulahi Abubakar; a cleaner, Joseph Agu; security guard, Rahim Mohammed and Misa Usman, among notable Nigerians to be given the national honours for acts of brotherliness, diligence and honesty.
Abubakar will be decorated with Member, Order of Niger (MON) for saving the lives of 262 fleeing Christians from Boko Haram at Yelwa Gindi Akwati village, Plateau State, at the event scheduled to hold in Abuja on October 11.
Joseph Agu, a cleaner at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. will be decorated for a rare display of honesty at his duty post.
In 2015, Agu, a staff of a cleaning company at the Lagos Airport, found and returned $12,200 forgotten inside the toilet by a passenger.
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Agu, on discovering the money, returned it to the security officials at the airport to the surprise of many Nigerians.
Also, Ibrahim Mohammed Ogbanago, a security guard working for United Bank of Africa (UBA) Plc, found an envelope containing $10,000 at the gate of the bank but returned it.
She was commended at the time by the National Assembly and the airport authorities. Likewise, Musa Isman, a security man attached to V. Venghese, an Indian national and director of the Jawa International Limited.
The gateman, as reliably informed, rejected the offer of a house but requested that a borehole be drilled in his community.
Usman hails from Glijimmi, a Fulani settlement in Birmiwa Local Government Area of Jigawa state. Among other honourees, President Muhammadu Buhari will also confer Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) on Borno State governor, Professor Babagana Zulum.
US-Based Nigerian Bags Lengthy Jail Term Over $9.5m Fraud
Elvis Eghosa Ogiekpolor, a Nigerian living in Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison by a district court for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering on Monday.
According to the information made available on the website of the US Department of Justice, Ogiekpolor and other members of his syndicate, fraudulently opened about 50 business bank accounts and used them to collect over $9.5 million, being proceeds of business email compromise scams (BECs) and romance fraud, realised from several unsuspecting victims between 2018 and 2020.
The bank accounts were said to have been opened in Georgia in the names of numerous fake companies.
“Multiple romance fraud victims, mainly women, testified at trial. The victims recounted how they met male strangers online and were soon convinced they were in a romantic relationship with the men, even though the victims were in communication with the individuals for months without meeting in person,” a statement released by the department on the matter reads in part.
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“Often these men claimed they wanted to start a life with the victims and were eager to live with them as soon as some kind of issue was resolved. For example, one romance fraud victim was convinced to wire $32,000 to one of the accounts Ogiekpolor controlled because her “boyfriend” (one of the men online) claimed a part of his oil rig needed to be replaced but that his bank account was frozen.
“This victim borrowed against her retirement and savings to provide the funds, which ultimately required her to refinance her home to pay back the loan.
“Another victim testified that she was convinced to send nearly $70,000 because the man she met on eHarmony claimed to need money to promptly make payment on several invoices due to a frozen bank account.”
While delivering his judgment, William Ray II, the presiding judge, sentenced Ogiekpolor to 25 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
The Nigerian was also said to have used eight people as “money mules” while perpetrating the fraud.
Five other ladies, identified as Ogiekpolor’s co-conspirators are Vere Whyte, Kutina Crawford, Ebony Parks, Tiffany Gaines and Tamara Gaines. They all pleaded guilty to charges bothering around fraud at separate hearings between November 2021 and July 2022.
The court will schedule another hearing to determine the amount of restitution that Ogiekpolor owes at a later date.
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