There seems to be no end to insinuations that Saturday’s helicopter crash, which killed a serving governor and a former national security adviser, was a sabotage. Fingers have pointed at incumbent National Security Adviser, who has since denied any involvement. The Navy’s pronouncement that the crashed helicopter was airworthy also lent credence to the sabotage theory, which was further fueled, Monday, by comments attributed to Gabriel Suswan, the governor of Benue State, who alleged there was a plot to annihilate Christian governors from the North.
Suswan alleged that there were plans by the Boko Haram Islamic militant sect to attack him, and called on Christians in the country to pray fervently for him.
Addressing communicants of NKST Church, in High Level quarters, Makurdi on Monday, he decried a situation where only four of all the governors in the north are Christian.
“With the demise of Sir Patrick Yakowa and the almost hopeless condition of Suntai, only two of them are left standing,” he said. “I went to Germany to see Suntai and I could not believe what I saw.”
Only last month, Governor of Taraba State, Danfulani Danbaba Suntai, a Christian, was involved in a ghastly chopper crash and he is still in a very critical condition at a German hospital.
The death of Gov. Yakowa was greeted with jubilation in the street of Kaduna by Muslims, who had been unhappy that a Christian was at the helm of affair in the state, thus corroborating Suswan’s claim.
The Nigerian Navy claims that its crashed helicopter, NN 07, was airworthy, as it was specifically manufactured for the Nigerian Navy by the air craft manufacturer, Agusta Westland.
Speaking at a press briefing, Chief of Training and Operations, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor explained that the helicopter was deployed in aid to civil authority, that is, VIP movement, when the incident occurred.
He added that the airworthiness of the helicopter was not in doubt because a certified Technical Support Engineer from Augusta Westland is retained in Nigeria by Nigerian Navy at a huge cost in support of the routine maintenance efforts. He maintained that the engineer in collaboration with Nigerian Navy aircraft engineers certified the helicopter’s airworthiness before it was deployed.
“As at the time of the incident, the helicopter had flown 1,704 flight hours and her last scheduled routine maintenance was concluded on the 19th November 2012 and cleared for operations on 20th November,” Ogbor said.
“When the aircraft crashed, it was having more than 80 flight hours before the next scheduled routine maintenance. Late commander MM Dada who flew the helicopter is an experienced pilot and he has flown over 800 hours, while the co-pilot, Lieutenant AO Tsoho, had flown over 300 hours. Nigerian Navy pilots were trained in the best aviation institutions all over the world.”
Ogbor also disclosed that as part of the statutory mandate of the Nigerian Navy, helicopters are deployed in multi–role military operations such as surveillance, logistic support, search and rescue, medical evacuation and in aid of the civil authority
Navy institute investigative board of inquiry
Despite its claim, the Nigerian Navy, Monday, constituted an investigative board of inquiry to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the crash of the helicopter.Making the announcement at a press conference, Navy Chief of Training and Operations, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor said the board had already commenced its work.
He disclosed that members of the board are aircraft investigation specialists drawn from Agusta Westland, the manufacturer of the ill-fated aircraft and other aviation regulatory agencies, as provided by extant regulations. He added that some components of the helicopter that could assist the board in its investigation had been recovered from the scene of the accident.
“It is expected that the board will come out with the remote and immediate causes of the accident with far-reaching recommendations that will forestall future occurrences,” he said.
Speaking further, Ogbor recalled that the helicopter was acquired from Agusta Westland in 2004 and has under gone regular maintenance under the supervision of the company engineer who is resident in-country.
He also said the investigations will unearth the exact happenings that led to the crash and that the Nigerian Navy will not preempt the findings of the investigation, particularly as it concerns insinuations that the helicopter might have been hacked down by an explosion.
NSA Dasuki Denies Involvement in Helicopter Crash
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser (NSA), Mr. Sambo Dasuki has condoled with the families of his predecessor, General Andrew Owoeye Azazi and former governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa who lost their lives along with their aides in an helicopter crash in Bayelsa State at the weekend.
Dasuki, in addition to issuing a public statement, spoke with Mrs. Alero Azazi over the death of her husband, who was his friend/regular 12 course mate. He also denied media reports claiming he was involved in the crash.
“We wish to state that the NSA, Mr Sambo Dasuki was not part of that flight that crashed because he has been out of the country on national assignment,” a part of the statement read.
House to probe Helicopter Crash
Still on Saturday’s chopper crash, Chairman of the Federal House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha has announced plans to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the tragedy.
Speaking in Abuja while reacting to the incident, she assured that the committee would liaise with military authorities to ensure that proper and diligent checks are conducted regularly on all military aircrafts in Nigeria.
“We will leave no stone unturned towards ensuring air safety in Nigeria by strengthening our oversight functions of the relevant regulatory agencies in the aviation sector,” she said.
I use this opportunity to express my heartfelt condolence to the families of the bereaved, the government and people of Kaduna State, and Nigerians at large over the irreparable loss.
The lawmaker also said the committee will liaise with the military authorities to ensure that proper and due diligent checks are conducted regularly on all military aircraft in Nigeria.
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