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, multiple sources familiar with the incident told LEADERSHIP on Saturday.
Chief Adeleke is the father of Afrobeat musician, David Adeleke, popularly known as 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 at about 9am on the fateful day when the jet was about to take off from Lagos to Abuja.
However, the incident wasn’t formally communicated to the concerned Aviation regulatory authorities, a development that is against standard protocol.
According to Leadership, 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 of the jet, causing it to abort take-off immediately.
“No deaths or injuries were reported, and other passengers in the plane as of the time of the incident could not be ascertained,” a source privy to the development told our correspondent.
The jet had been parked at the Executive Jet hanger of the Airport before it was deployed on September 5.
The chief executive officer (CEO), Executive Jets, owners of the hangar where the private jet was parked, Sam Iwuajoku, disclosed that the Chief Adeleke’s private jet had Foreign Object Damage (FOD) that made the aircraft experienced high temperature, which resulted into 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, credible sources told LEADERSHIP that the internationally renowned musician, Davido, had used the plane the previous day, September 4, putting a lie to Iwuajoku of Executive Jets’ account of the incident.
Meanwhile, efforts to get confirmation from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) proved abortive as calls and text messages placed to its director-general, Capt. Musa Nuhu, were not replied as at the time of filing this report on Saturday.
The source, who craved anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to speak on the matter, said: “NCAA isn’t aware of this incident because the Air Worthiness Department is not aware.”
Meanwhile, Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State says he suspects sabotage in the near air mishap involving a private jet he was to fly to Abuja from Lagos.
Reacting in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, the governor confirmed that the incident happened.
“The highly technically equipped aircraft was well maintained with the best technical crew and was never an unused platform where birds could build nests.”
“Contrary to the claim by the hangar owner that birds’ nests caused the incident, birds’ nests are made with straws not binding wires as in this case.
“According to him, the near fatal incident was averted shortly after boarding and less than two minutes after the commencement of taxing on the tarmac.
“An early warning noise from the engines immediately prompted the pilots to direct the evacuation of the passengers. Everything happened within five minutes.
“Early reports from the 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.”
In a chat with Daily Trust, Director-General, Civil Aviation of Nigeria, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said investigation was ongoing.
The DG also warned against sensationalizing the incident, disclosing that a mandatory occurrence report was filed to the NCAA a day after the incident as required by the regulations.
The DGC said what happened was a normal procedure in aviation which any pilot would do after noticing a snag in the jet. According to him, the NCAA after receiving the MOR immediately sent its team to assess the level of damage to the engine.
He said, “We received a report on it, mandatory occurrence report as required by the regulations a day after the incident. What happened was a normal procedure. I am a pilot for 40 years.
This is a normal procedure that we do all the time when you are about to take off and you abandon the takeoff, this is a normal training procedure we do all the time. Honestly this sensationalism does not help anybody may because of the personality involved.”