Mid-air bomb scare on Arik flight

There was pandemonium yesterday on an Arik Airline flight from Maiduguri, Borno State, en route Abuja, when a passenger, Mallam Aminu Galadima, stood up mid-air and shouted 'Allah Akbar' (God is great).

Suspecting Galadima to be a suicide bomber linked to the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, other passengers panicked, triggering a melee on board the aircraft.

Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, is the major operational base of the sect that has killed close to 2,000 since 2009 when it began its terror attacks.

Some of the passengers, alarmed by the behaviour of Galadima, who is said to have a history of mental disorder, rushed to apprehend and possibly disarm him.

However, nothing dangerous was found on him after he was thoroughly searched by passengers and crew-members.

On arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the pilot immediately radioed air traffic control and airport security operatives who whisked him away.

Galadima was later handed over to security operatives, who swung into action to verify his mental state.

The State Security Service (SSS), Ministry of Aviation and Arik in different statements Tuesday, dismissed rumours that the plane was about to be bombed and assured the public of safety.

The SSS in a statement by its Deputy Director, Public Relations, Mrs. Marilyn Ogar, said Galadima was allowed on the flight due to negligence by his guardians who failed to notify airport authorities as previously agreed, before he boarded the plane.

Ogar said: “On Friday, October 19, 2012, the wife of the SSG (Secretary to the State Government) to the Borno State Government, Hajia Yachilla Jidda, travelled to Maiduguri in company of one Aminu S. Galadima, an interior decorator based in Abuja, to do some interior decoration work.

“On arrival in Maiduguri, he was lodged at Greenland Hotel. During the course of his stay, he exhibited unusual behaviour by smashing a window, and ended up with lacerations on his hands.

“The SSG was contacted, and in collaboration with the hotel management, the subject was taken to Atal Hospital, also in Maiduguri, where he received treatment.

“His family in Abuja was contacted and they gave confirmation that Galadima has been mentally unstable. In addition, his elder brother who lives in the UK was contacted and he requested that the subject be returned to Abuja for medical attention.

“On Sunday, October 21, 2012, he was taken to the airport to be returned to Abuja, but he missed the flight. However, the airport management was informed of his state of health, and they advised that whenever his return is scheduled, the management should be notified.

“Unfortunately, when Galadima was taken to the airport on October 23 (yesterday) for his return trip, the management of the airport was not informed, and 10 minutes into the flight, due to slight turbulence, his condition was triggered off. Meanwhile, Galadima is in the custody of security forces.”

The Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, through her spokesman, Mr. Joe Obi, in another statement, corroborated the SSS narration and described the rumour of a bomb attempt on the flight as a hoax.

The airline, in its statement, explained that the passenger was not caught with any bomb or dangerous object.

It also disclosed that all the passengers on board the flight, including Galadima, had all gone through the normal security checks at the Maiduguri International Airport and nothing incriminating was found on anyone.