How Four Nigerian Teenagers Hijacked a Plane in Protest of the Annulment of June 12

The term “hijacking” was sometimes used to describe the frequent theft of liquor trucks in the United States in the early 1920s. It is now understood to mean the illegal seizure of a ship, aircraft, or vehicle while it is in motion.

In history, quite a number of plane hijackings have occurred with the majority stemming from political unrest. The first recorded aircraft hijacking occurred in Arequipa, Peru by armed revolutionists on February 21, 1931, during the course of a civil war.

The US had a wave of airplane hijackings in the early 1960s by Cubans. Cuba was under an embargo imposed by the United States, which had an impact on Cuban natives who desired to return home for various reasons. Later on, a political solution was devised so as not to glorify the act of hijacking airplanes.

Many would have heard of D.B. Cooper, especially movie lovers. He was the infamous hijacker who jumped from the back of a Boeing 727 flight on November 24, 1971, and made off with $200,000. The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper, an American crime thriller from 1981, was about the incident.

In Africa, not many hijackings have happened. Among the few events, the 1993 hijacking by four Nigerian teenagers of a Nigerian Airways Airbus A310 was essentially significant in the fight for democracy.

This was one of the events that followed the historical annulment of the Jun 12, 1993 election by the then head of State, Ibrahim Babangida. On October 25, 1993, four Nigerian teenagers,—Kabir Adenuga, Richard Ogunderu, Benneth Oluwadaisi and Kenny Rasaq-Lawal— diverted the airplane en route Abuja from Lagos to Niamey, Niger.

They boarded a domestic plane in Lagos, en route to Abuja. Their initial plan was to hijack it and take it to another country, Frankfurt, Germany, and not Niamey, Niger. However, when the pilot talked about the need to refill the aircraft’s fuel tank during a journey that long, the plot failed.

These youngsters conceived this as an act of protest against the Government for the annulment of the 1993 election. They wanted to raise the alarm about why democracy is needed in Nigeria. And in a bid to draw the attention of the international community, they kept the passengers aboard hostage for three days in Niamey. You might find it interesting to know that they used a toy gun to take control of the aircraft. They also briefed the hostages on what was going on and persuaded them to help them carry out their intentions.

A Nigerian Tribune Journalist, Akin Adewakun, interviewed the leader of the pack, Ajibola Ogunderu in 2020 at Bariga, Lagos, where he was at that moment undergoing rehabilitation.

Asked how the idea came about and why, Ajibola replied that it was not his or theirs but that of Jerry Yusuf (late), a popular businessman and leader of the MDA organization. His story was about how Jerry told him and a few others about reading a report about a hijacking in which a toy gun was used.

For the three days of operation, the hijackers and the passengers ate coffee and snacks. Eventually, they ran out of coffee and food. On the demand of one of the passengers for water, the hijackers reached out to the Nigeriène soldiers to bring some water to the plane. Nonetheless, the Nigeriène government sent in security personnel and experts to disguise and deliver the hijackers. They noted that the hijackers were unarmed and waited until dusk to attempt to storm the aircraft.

The pack leader, Ajibola, suffered gunshot injuries and the four of them were arrested, handcuffed and put behind bars. They were detained in the Nigeriène prison for thirteen (13) years. The Nigerian Government did not attempt to extradite them. They were later released in 2001 after serving their sentences.

Samuel Olowolayemo


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