Lagos – Panicked passengers aboard a flight in Nigeria swarmed on a man who shouted “Allah Akbar,” but he was found to be harmless and authorities called him mentally unstable, officials said on Wednesday.
The incident on Tuesday occurred with Nigerians jittery over waves of bombings and shootings blamed on Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in the country’s northern and central regions.
The flight had left from Maiduguri in Nigeria’s northeast, which has been Boko Haram’s base.
“A passenger on board flight W3 812 from Maiduguri to Abuja caused a scare when he started shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ shortly before the aircraft landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja,” a statement from Nigerian airline Arik Air said.
“The frightened passengers on board the flight became suspicious, thinking the man was about to do something sinister.”
Local media reported that passengers rushed the man to restrain him.
Nigeria’s secret police, concerned by the spread of rumours over the incident, issued a statement saying the man was “mentally unstable“.
Arik Air is Nigeria’s largest airline.
Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS) has blamed today’s incident on an Arik Air flight from Maiduguri to Abuja on a mentally-unstable man whose “condition was triggered off” by turbulence.
Social media reports had claimed a bombing threat on the flight.
In a press statement, Marilyn Ogar, DSS’ Deputy Director for Public Relations, said that when the man, an Abuja interior decorator named Aminu S. Galadima boarded the flight, Airport Management was not informed as had previously been arranged.
Mr. Gladima had travelled to Maiduguri on October 19 with Hajia Yachilla Jidda, wife of the Secretary to the Borno State government, to do some 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 statement said.
Following an investigation, it was discovered that Mr. Galadima was in poor mental health, and arrangements were made for him to be returned to Abuja for treatment.
As it would turn out, terrible miscommunication then followed, leading to the lives of passengers being put in danger.
“Unfortunately, when Galadima was taken to the Airport on 23rd October 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,” Ogar said.
Explaining that the clarification became necessary in order “to dispel the unfounded rumours concerning the flight,” she said Mr. Galadima is with the security forces.
She did not explain why he is not in a hospital.
Earlier today, the Ministry of Aviation told SaharaReporters there had been no threat to the Maiduguri-Abuja flight. That means it does not consider a “triggered-off” mentally-unstable passenger who had not been professionally handled a danger.
On their part, an Arik pilot on the flight said that the problem was only as “an unruly passenger who was high on drugs blabbing rubbish.”
Full text of the press statement:
This is a brief highlight of the incident that occurred on the Arik Air flight from Maiduguri to Abuja.
On Friday, 19th October, 2012, Wife of the SSG 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, 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 subject be returned to Abuja for medical attention.
On Sunday, 21st October, 2012, he was taken to the airport to be returned to Abuja, but 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 23rd October 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.
This clarification has become necessary to dispel the unfounded rumours concerning the flight.
Marilyn OGAR, msi
Deputy Director, Public Relations
Department of State Services
23rd October, 2012
A mentally ill man caused panic on a Nigerian flight, when in mid-air he started screaming “Allah Akbar” which means “God is great”.
Fearing that he could be a terrorist and about to blow up the plane, fellow passengers wrestled him, only to find that he was not carrying any weapons or explosives.
Nigeria’s security services had been trailing the man, Aminu Galadima, for a while and had it confirmed that he was mentally unstable, but a communication breakdown led to the mid air fiasco.
The Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) had followed Galadima from Abuja to Maiduguri where he lodged in a hotel.
“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 security service said in a statement.
Galadima’s hotel room was searched but no weapons or suspicious materials were found.
He was taken to Atal Hospital for check-up and treatment, and upon his release, he was put on the Maiduguri flight back to Abuja yesterday.
“His family in Abuja was contacted and they gave confirmation that Galadima has been mentally unstable.”
The airport management was informed of Galadima’s state of health, but were not notified when he was taken to the Airport on 23rd October for his return trip.
Aviation Minister, Joe Obi, dispelled every fear of a terrorist on a Nigerian plane.
“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. Nothing incriminating, no explosives or weapons whatsoever were found on him.”
“However, mid-air the passenger began to act strangely, loudly screaming Allah Akbar (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.”
Galadima – employed by the Secretary to the Borno State Government – was taken into custody by security agents Wednesday.