Ok, I am sure you heard about the 14 year old boy that stowed away on an Arik aircraft flying from Benin to Lagos. Let me refresh your memory, story had it that the boy thought the plane was travelling to America, so he entered the airport, walked across the big open field where passengers were boarding the plane, got to the front tyre of the plane, climbed it and them hid himself in the side compartment beside where the plane’s tyre was going to fold into. The plane took off, folded its tyre, and landed in Lagos. The boy came out alive in Lagos and that was where he was found.
This story ran wild in the dailies and we were all captivated. I recall that on the social media and even the newspapers, there were pictures of the police dragging the boy and all, and on social media some people commented and said that the boy should be given a scholarship, making all sorts of excuses for the child, attributing his actions to the failure of government and appealing to our sentiments as Nigerians who were concerned about the state of the nation. Then we read the claims and the counter claims from FAAN, and Arik and then he ministry of Aviation.
Yours truly also showed a lot of sentiment too, until I was inside a plane over the weekend. if you have gone to board a plane before, you come out of the departure lounge and face that large open concrete field called a boarding platform, field so open and clean you can see the entire length of the field. You would see security officers and airline officials interspersed to cover every inch of the way from the lounge to the foot of the plane. How did a shabbily dressed boy make it across that concrete platform all the way to the foot of that plane?
Again, at the point of entering the plane, you can see the entire foot, the loaders loading bags into the plane, the plane official checking boarding passes and directing people into the plane, the security people conducting the last minute frisking and you said a boy evaded all these eyes and got to the foot of the plane? Is the boy invisible man? Ok let's fast forward, we have assumed that the boy was invisible or better still a Ninja, how did the boy know that the plane had space in the tyre compartment where he could hide. . . . .haaa I catch you, you say he watched movies. Na lie, which movie has a bush Benin boy watched that will make him walk where angels fear to tread. Is he a genius? Ok assuming he watched a movie, they will be movies of big commercial planes, not of a smaller jet like the ones Arik uses for local flight. How did the boy know that he could enter the tyre section, hide and not die. . . . Now you are thinking, surely like Yoruba people say “There must be hands in the snakes stomach” "Ejo l'owo 'nu" Full grown men sit comfortably inside the aircraft and their hearts are shaking when the plane enters turbulence and a small boy was not afraid that he would die in the tyre or fall out when the plane tries to land? Please!
Ok, they said he is a boy. Were we not 14 year olds at a time too? For a 14 year old to commit such a crime, the behavioural logic is that there has to be, minimum, 2 to 3 of them who would have planned it. Think of all the major adventures you undertook as a teenager, how many of them did you plan alone? It is highly unlikely that a 14 year old will hatch such a plan of his own accord without any help. Also come to think of it, how did he come to know the design of the plane, do they have a copy of the plane in his neighbourhood? Let’s assume he googled it, then he would have had to know the type of plane it was to be able to google the design accurately and know that that compartment can provide safe haven.
Finally, how did he beat all the watching eyes of the people – securities offices, officials and passengers? And aha, where were the cameras at the airport? Did anyone pick the child as he walked through the airport boarding deck?
Someone said one passenger saw someone climbing up and never coming out and the passenger boarded that plane and flew to Lagos without being perturbed or raising major issues about it. If I see someone climbing into the tyre of the plane I am boarding, I will not say it quietly, I will be screaming it – You cannot see an elephant pass and say something just flashed by, you will be raising major alarms, I bet you.
In short, the story is too inconsistent. Conspiracy theory says, it is either the boy did not stow away as purported and someone tried to frame the boy up to gain some cheap mileage (maybe discredit the airline) or that some people who properly understood the plane conspired to help the boy get into the plane’s tyre compartment, knowing fully well that he would be safe and again, with a sinister motive to discredit the airline or cause some reputational damage.
In my opinion, the story does not align. There are too many gaps. I hope Arik and the ministry of aviation get to the bottom of it and share same with us all.