By a stroke of luck, what could have been a national tragedy was averted on Tuesday, September 5, 2023 when a private jet owned by billionaire businessman, Chief Adedeji Adeleke, caught fire at take-off point at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, according to media report.
The report quoted multiple sources familiar with the incident.
Chief Adeleke is the father of Afrobeat musician, David Adeleke aka Davido. He is also the brother of Osun State governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Chief Adeleke owns the Bombadier Global Express 6000 involved in the incident. The jet is used as a family plane by the Adelekes.
The incident happened at the domestic wing of the Airport about 9 am on the fateful day when the jet was about to take off from Lagos to Abuja.
However, the incident was not formally communicated to the concerned Aviation regulatory authorities, a development that is against standard protocol.
Reports indicated that the jet, with Osun State governor Ademola Adeleke on board and his top aides at the time of the incident, had taxied to the end of the runway, shortly before departure, when a loud explosion was heard from the engine, causing it to immediately abort take-off.
“No deaths or injuries were reported, and other passengers in the plane as of the time of the incident could not be ascertained,” the report further said.
The jet had reportedly been parked at the Executive Jet hanger of the Airport before it was deployed on September 5.
Neither the governor nor any of his aides was reachable for comments on the incident.
Even though one of the passengers on the plane, who did not want to be named, alleged foul play in the incident, as both engines of the aircraft were damaged.
However, Sam Iwuajoku, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Executive Jets, owners of the hangar where the private jet was parked, disclosed that Chief Adeleke’s private jet had Foreign Object Damage (FOD) that made the aircraft to experience high temperature, which resulted in the explosion.
According to him, the FOD was caused by a bird nest in one of the engines of the jet.
“At take-off, the engine had high temperature, and it was caused by bird nest in one of the engines of the aircraft. It happened when an aircraft is parked and not properly covered; so, birds will build their nest, and anything they bring into the aircraft can spark high temperature.
“It happened to one of my aircraft in 2021. We had to remove the engine, and the engine was in Germany for 14 months. So, it’s a common thing in Africa because we have birds around,” he stated.
But sources claimed that the governor’s nephew, Davido, had used the plane the previous day, September 4, putting a lie to Iwuajoku of Executive Jets’ account of the incident.
Also, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) could not be reached for comments.
However, a reliable source said in confidence that the incident was not reported to the NCAA as the Air Worthiness Department of the Authority was not aware of the incident.
The source said: “NCAA isn’t aware of this incident because the Air Worthiness Department is not aware.”
Meanwhile, the governor has confirmed reported aircraft incident involving him but claimed there are strong indications that the two aircraft engines were tampered before boarding.
His spokesperson Mallam Olawale Rasheed, while reacting to news reports on the incident on Sunday, said the highly technically equipped aircraft was well maintained with the best technical crew and was never an unused platform where birds could build nests.
According to him, contrary to the claim by the hanger owner that birds’ nests caused the incident, birds’ nests are made with straws not bidding wires as in this case.
He said the near fatal incident was averted shortly after boarding and less than two minutes after commencement of taxing on the tarmac.
“An early warning noise from the engines immediately prompted the pilots to direct evacuation of the passengers. Everything happened within five minutes.
“Early reports from internal investigation indicated sabotage. But the authorities, locally and internationally, are still investigating the incident.
“We however want to assure the public that Governor Adeleke and his aides are safe and there was no injury or any outward explosion on the plane.
“The Governor expressed his deep appreciation to well wishers and supporters who have been calling since the report of the incident. Mr. Governor is hale and hearty.”