By Adekunle Williams and Solomon Asowata
Suspected thieves on Thursday night opened the cargo hold of an Air Peace aircraft scheduled for departure at the runway of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The Corporate Communications Manager of Air Peace, Mr Chris Iwarah, said this in a statement on Friday in Lagos.
Iwarah said the cargo hold of Flight 7138 scheduled for departure on Runway 18R (A1) of the airport was opened by the suspected thieves at about 7.35 p.m.
He said the airline’s passengers praised the captain and cabin crew for their security consciousness and professionalism for insisting on thorough screening of the Abuja-bound flight after the incident.
“We are sincerely grateful to all our wonderful guests on board Flight 7138 for their support, patience and cooperation throughout the precautionary security checks.
“The checks were conducted by Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) squad, Federal Airport Authorities of Nigeria Aviation Security (FAAN AVSEC) and our security team.’’
He said that the Pilot-in-Command, Capt. Adesola Arasi had to contact the control tower when he was alerted by the light that came on in the cockpit, indicating that the cargo hold was opened for about 15 seconds, but was immediately shut.
“In line with our high security standards and the huge value we place on the lives of our guests and crew, Arasi insisted on having EOD squad check Flight APK 7138 before takeoff.
“This is to be doubly sure nothing was deposited in the cargo hold by the suspected thieves to endanger the lives of our guests and crew.
“Our guests, who were fully briefed on the development by the pilot-in-command, were advised to disembark from the aircraft and board an Air Peace bus while the joint security operation by EOD, FAAN AVSEC and our security team lasted.
“The Lagos-Abuja flight was cleared by the security experts after exhaustive screening of the aircraft lasting about 30 minutes.
“The flight eventually took off at 9.30 p.m and safely landed in Abuja at about 10.23pm,’’ he said.
Iwarah assured that Air Peace would continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of its guests, crew and equipment.