Two state agencies that manage operations Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi have clashed on their relationship with man the who fell from London sky in June.
The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) have given conflicting accounts on their ties with the unauthorised passenger identified as Paul Manyasi from Malava, Kakamega County.
While KAA, the owner and operator of nine civilian airports and airstrips in Kenya, denies Manyasi was a cleaner at JKIA, KCAA, the aviation industry regulator, says the stowaway "most likely" worked at the airport.
On July 3, a few days after Manyasi dropped dead in south London's Clapham suburb, KCAA Director-General Gilbert Kibe told BBC Africa that the unlicensed passenger most likely had legal access to the airport and planes.
"Whoever it is most likely had access to the airside," he said in an interview in Nairobi.
It was unlikely that an outsider would have crossed the runway and climbed into the plane without being noticed, the BBC quotes Mr Kibe as saying.
"They do check every part of the airplane, including the undercarriage, the wheels, the brakes, the tyre condition, the wheel well that is above there. They inspect everything. So when those checks were being done, it is not likely that person was there, otherwise he would have been seen,” he said.
But on Tuesday KAA denied a report by British news agency Sky News that the stowaway was a cleaner at JKIA.
Colnet, the cleaning company at which the stowaway identified as Paul Manyasi Sky News says worked, also denied the man was its employee.
According to the company and KAA, Manyasi’s name does not appear on the airport’s pass bio metric register.
“Colnet Limited Kenya is a cleaning company contracted by Kenya Airports Authority. The name Paul Manyasi does not appear in the JKIA Staff register,” KAA said in a statement.
Colnet Limited said it was surprised by the report.
“Whereas we condole with the family of the deceased stowaway, we are surprised by the story carried by Sky News Network which seems on connecting Colnet Limited to the stowaway,” Chege Kariuki, Colnet Managing Partner, said in a statement.
The company, he said, had provided all its employees records and information to investigative agencies “which can confirm that there is no employee by the name Paul Manyasi.”
Their denials came as it also emerged that both KAA and Colnet turned down Sky News interview request on the matter.
And while KAA has disowned Manyasi, the fact that a 'stranger' entered the airport, breached all the security and safety checks, accessed the plane, entered and travelled to Britain without being noticed points to a major security lapse.
It is ironical that Manyasi breached the heavy security checks that were adopted at the biggest airport in East Africa after the launch of direct flights to the US.
If confirmed that strangers can go through Kenya's premier airport undetected, JKIA's Category 1 Status, which it earned in February 2017 and allowed direct flights between Nairobi and the US, could be downgraded.
Sky TV on Tuesday published a report that strongly indicated that Manyasi may have been the stowaway, even as his father, Mr Isaac Manyasi, said he is yet to get details of the news.
“No one has called to inform me of the death of my son from the time media people in the UK informed me about him,” he said on Tuesday.
According the report, Manyasi, who was 29, was a cleaner for Colnet at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi.
He hailed from Namakara village, Malava constituency in Kakamega County.
In an interview by a Sky News reporter, the cleaner’s girlfriend said he reported to work on the day but disappeared.
The Sky News reporter says he zeroed in on the former worker at Colnet after following a number of leads.
According to the report, a taxi driver called Kamau confided in the journalist that a cleaner from the company had gone missing.
Kamau’s hint led the journalist to Colnet, where an employee revealed that her colleague called Paul Manyasi had gone missing towards the end of June.
“We were at work in the morning and he vanished suddenly. I attempted to call him but the phone was switched off,” Manyasi’s colleague is quoted as telling the journalist.
According to her, the supervisor called all employees the following day and told them that one of them was missing though he was not sure who it was.
She added that the supervisor told them not to tell anybody until the identity of the missing worker had been known.
Last month, British police released an e-fit photo of the stowaway hoping to have him identified and his family informed.
Also released were images of his belongings, among them a Sh20 coin, a bag and a bottle.
Paul’s body is at a mortuary awaiting the conclusion of investigations, before a file is submitted to a South West London coroner and an inquest held.