HISTORY: Who Remembers The Tale Of Nigeria’s Four Plane Hijackers In 1993?

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Who remembers?

Just two months into the fìdíhé (interim) government of Chief Ernest Shonekan who was battling almost fruitlessly to salvage the floundering image of a nation then in turmoil. Four Nigerian youths, Richard Ogunderu, Kabir Adenuga, Bennet Oluwadaisi and Kenny Rasaq-Lawal under the aegis of Movement for the Advancement of Democracy in Nigeria (MAD), led by one Jerry Yusuf, hijacked a Nigeria Airways Airbus on October 25, 1993 to show resentment against the annulment of the June 12 election and the excesses of military dictatorship in Nigeria.

The four teens smuggled guns and explosives into the plane in Lagos, enroute Abuja. But midway into the flight, just about 30,000 feet above sea level, the boys signalled to themselves beckoning on the group leader to strike. Richard Ogunderu who had just completed his secondary education in ondo, trod to the cockpit and seized the process, he picked the microphone and announced thus;

“Ladies and gentlemen, this plane has been taken over by the Movement for the Advancement of Democracy,” the rather tiny voice said. “Remain calm, we will not harm you. You will be told where the plane will land you.”

Passengers aboard the aircraft, including top businessmen and senior government officials, were bewildered to hear a voice, different from that of the pilot, addressing them in the moments that followed.

The teens had planned to divert the plane to Frankfurt, Germany, but the pilot reckon that the aircraft doesn’t have sufficient fuel for the trip so an impromptu change of plans landed the aircraft in Niamey, Niger with the hope to refill the aircraft but then hundreds of Nigerien gendarmes had secured the airport on arrival.

The boys some of which had no prior experience of traveling in a plane were dauntless, in the days that followed they separated government officials, women and children as negotiation begins with the Nigerian government, the hijackers demand was definite they want the Nigerian government to overturn the annulment of the June 12 election and swear in , the acclaimed winner of the election. They gave the government 72 hours to meet their demands or else they would set the plane ablaze. However, they allowed 34 passengers to go and held onto the remaining 159 among whom were top Nigerian government officials.

The four musketeers held on to the plane for some days, trailed by bait negotiations until the gendarmes stormed the plane in the night, leading to the death of one person and the arrest of the four youngsters. They later served a nine-year prison term in a Niamey, Niger prison. Through advocacy by the media and the human rights community, they were finally released after nine harrowing years behind bars.

Samuel Nelson
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