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Stampede as gun goes off at Lagos airport

THERE was pandemonium at the departure hall of the General Aviation Terminal of the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on Friday, after the gun of an orderly of an unidentified politician accidentally discharged.

The mishap, which caused hundreds of people within the terminal building and outside to run helter-skelter, happened as  outbound passengers were waiting  their turns to buy tickets at Arik Air counter.

The security detail, whose gun discharged and wounded a man and a woman in the process, was said to be among those on the queue at the counter.

Many of those within the terminal were said to have sustained injuries while attempting to escape, thinking that the situation was an attack by Boko Haram terrorists or Niger Delta militants who had earlier threatened to attack the airport.

Officials of the airport police command and security officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) were said to have stormed the scene to arrest the development.

The story, however, changed for them when it was discovered that it was a case of an accidental discharge.

An airline staff told Saturday Tribune that the atmosphere was charged initially as no one knew where the gunshot came from.

“Initially, everyone thought the gunshot was from Boko Haram terrorists or Niger Delta militants. Therefore, in their bids to escape to safety, people began to push and shove and run.”

Confirming the incident, the General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Yakubu Dati, said: “Two persons were injured on Friday at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, when a man identified as an orderly of a senator wanted to remove the magazine of his gun and there was accidental discharge that left him and a woman injured.

“The orderly was to travel on Arik Air and wanted to lodge his gun, which is a standard practice on air travel, but the gun released a bullet that splinted and hit both the man and the woman in the leg as he bent down to pull the magazine out of the gun.

“According to eyewitness account, the two were taken to the hospital at the airport. They walked out of the terminal to the vehicle that took them to the hospital, and also walked into the hospital without any assistance, which indicated the injuries were not severe.”

Dati insisted that stowing the gun away with its magazine was a standard procedure because guns are not taken onboard aircraft; they are usually checked in the luggage compartment.

He assured air travellers that all the airports are safe and secure and in recognition of the security challenges in the country and in the world, security at the nation’s airports has been fortified.