The Aviation Security (AVSEC) directorate of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has exposed the pilfering of passengers’ luggage, a scandal that has lasted for years, after several months of investigation by the agency, using close circuit television (CCTV). The syndicate behind the protracted theft at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos has now been unraveled.
FAAN identified the suspect behind the syndicate as a 38-year-old Chinwendu Okereobode, an employee of Check Port Security (a private aviation handling company that works for Emirates Airlines), who in connivance of another suspect, Mr. Oriola Afeez, a member staff of the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company Plc (Nacho Aviance) who is still on the run, and others who were yet to be identified ran the illicit baggage pilfering ring at the airport.
General Manager, Corporate Communications of FAAN, Yakubu Dati said Okereobode was caught on September 2, by the CCTV after it was reviewed by AVSEC.
According to Dati, the pilfering at the nation’s main airport, which had generated a lot of controversies, had continued unabated for some time and led to the Crime and Investigation (CIB) unit of FAAN’s Aviation Security Service to be put on the alert and directed to investigate the issue.
“The investigation got a major lead when AVSEC officials received a report of pilferage from Emirate Airlines on its flight of July 19, 2013 and CIB officials embarked on an inspection of the photo footage from the aircraft’s bulk hold’s CCTV showing the reported pilfering in progress,” he said.
Dati explained that, Okereobode was identified in the footage and was apprehended, where he later confessed to giving Afeez, a Nacho Aviance staff, the permission to go ahead with pilfering on the parked aircraft, while he gave him protection inside the aircraft bulk hold.
“The culprit confessed to aiding and abetting the Nacho Aviance member of staff in removing an I-Pad computer and other valuable items belonging to passengers, which were sold and proceeds from the sale, in the sum of N8,000 was given to him.
“This discovery has confirmed that pilfering gangs are mainly cargo handling agents and airline security officials, who have been operating from inside parked aircraft, contrary to the wrong assumption that pilfering was done inside terminal,” Dati alleged.
FAAN also disclosed that Okereobode, who was charged for conspiracy and stealing, was on Friday last week sentenced to six month imprisonment concurrently, while police officers were kept on the trail of Afeez.
Reacting to the incident, Nahco Aviance’s Head of Corporate Communications, Adesanya Onayoade, said investigations were still ongoing on the incident but acknowledged that it was confirmed that a member staff of the handling company was involved along with workers of other agencies at the airport which complete investigation would expose.
Onayoade said it was important that FAAN should install CCTV at all the areas not accessible to staff of handling companies and others who could inspect what activities were going on during offload of luggage.
“We are waiting for the full investigation. Two years ago, we sacked about 200 workers due to fraudulent activities, including theft. We are waiting for the outcome of the present investigation,” he said.