The presence of an Islamic cleric aboard and Abuja-bound Arik Air flight caused a major scare, prompting diversion of the plane.
The Post understands that passengers and other users of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja were forced to scamper for safety as the Islamic preacher was mistaken for a member of the Isamic terrorist group, Boko Haram.
The flight, which took off from the Maiduguri Airport and was heading to Enugu Airport was diverted to Abuja because of the presence of the Islamic cleric.
Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, moved swiftly to calm frayed nerves, describing the fears of a bomb aboard the flight as untrue.
The minister assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would continue to safeguard all the airports environments in the country.
Eyewitnesses said trouble started few minutes after take off from Maiduguri adding that the pilot called for an emergency landing after the Islamic cleric allegedly stood up and started preaching, which drew the attention of the about 100 passengers onboard.
The Post understands that the jittery passengers, fearing that the man was going to detonate a bomb subsequently subdued him.
A statement by the Aviation Ministry stated that a passenger, Aminu Galadima, an indigene of Minna, Niger state boarded a Maiduguri – Abuja bound Arik Air aircraft with registration number 5N MJE after going through all mandatory security screening, stressing that nothing incriminating was found on him.
He statement reads in part, “however, mid air the passenger began to act strangely, loudly screaming ”God is Great.” Fellow passengers, alarmed by this behaviour rushed to apprehend him. A thorough search by fellow passengers and crew members revealed nothing dangerous on him. The pilot immediately radioed Air Traffic Control and airport security operatives.
“The plane landed safely at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at exactly 1253 hrs and the suspect handed over to the State Security Services (SSS) at about 1445 hrs where he is currently being interrogated.
“We wish to reassure the flying public of the continued focus of the Federal Ministry of Aviation on the safety and security of the nation’s airspace, while cautioning fellow Nigerians on the spreading of dangerous rumours. These rumours do not help to make our airspace either safer or more secure.”
More so, the image maker, Arik Air, Mr. Olabanji Ola in a telephone conversation with our correspondent denied the incident; saying that some passengers felt one of the passengers was a Boko Haram member.
According to him, the suspect was frisked by the police attached to the airport, but nothing incriminating was found on him.
He also could not confirm if the suspect was about to preach onboard before the incident, but confirmed that the plane was heading to Enugu before it was diverted to Abuja airport because of the incident.