The Governor of Taraba State, Mr. Danbaba Suntai, survived a plane crash in neighbouring Adamawa State on Thursday, but his condition is said to be critical. Five other passengers, including the governor’s security detail for the journey, survived the crash.
While initial report said the governor died in the crash, the aviation ministry and the Taraba and Adamawa state governments said that he survived.
A statement issued by the Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation on Media, Mr. Joe Obi, gave details of the crash and said no passenger on the aircraft died.
The statement said, “An aircraft, Cessna 208, with six souls on board including crew, operated by the Taraba State Government departed Jalingo, Taraba State for Yola this evening and reported contact with the Yola Control Tower (1720Z) and field in sight at 38 miles estimating landing at 1730Z.
“The pilot subsequently lost contact with Yola Control Tower and subsequent effort to raise the aircraft failed.
“Search and Rescue was immediately activated and the site of incident located with all victims alive with various degrees of injuries. The victims have been evacuated to the hospital for treatment pending further investigation of the incident.
“This is the correct version of the incident; every other one that is contrary to this is incorrect.”
Mallam Maijamal, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, also told one of our correspondents on the telephone that Suntai survived the crash.
“Suntai is alive. He is at the Adamawa German Standard Hospital. Governor Murtala Nyako is with him there and he is doing everything possible to make sure that he gets necessary medical attention. Forget all rumours contrary to this, please,” he said.
The other five passengers in the plane are also receiving treatment at a hospital in Adamawa State.
“It was a small plane. It looked like a jet. It crashed just behind the NNPC depot,” an eyewitness told The PUNCH.
The PUNCH gathered that the the governor was “badly injured”, and that arrangements were being made to fly him to a hospital abroad.
“I just spoke to a close family member and she confirmed that though the governor is badly injured, he survived the crash. Arrangement is being made now to fly him abroad in the morning. But it is not that easy; such arrangement takes about 24 hours,” a source close to the family who preferred anonymity told The PUNCH.
The PUNCH’s findings show that Suntai, a licensed pilot, flew the Cessna 208.
According to Wikipedia, “Cessna 208 Caravan is a single turboprop engine, fixed-gear short-haul regional airliner and utility aircraft built in the United States by Cessna.
“The airplane typically seats nine passengers, with a single person crew, although with a FAR Part 23 waiver, it can seat up to fourteen passengers. The aircraft is also used for cargo feederliner operations.”
The PUNCH gathered that the Cessna that the governor flew had been sold to the state government by a Nigerian businessman. Its original number was N2255R, but the state government changed it to 5N-BMJ. It reportedly crashed about 38 miles to landing in Yola, Adamawa State.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party said it received the news of the crash with shock. The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, said, “We received the news of the plane crash with shock. We are officially awaiting news of the true position right now and we urge all our members in Taraba and Nigeria to pray for him,” he said.
According to the Aviation in Nigeria blog, the governor is a keen pilot who obtained his licence from the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Kaduna State in 2010. At least one of his children is said to be a licensed pilot.
The website, which is run by Nigerian aviation enthusiasts, says that the governor also owns a helicopter. Residents of Jalingo say that the governor is known to fly his helicopter around the state.
He is also said to have built an airstrip in his village, Suntai. Jalingo, the state capital, has a partially completed airport started by Suntai’s predecessor. Construction was abandoned after the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria reportedly stopped works, citing ‘runway defects’. The state later announced that it would construct a new airport for N10bn. The new airport is to be sited on the Mambilla plateau.
Air Taraba, the state government’s proposed airline has an EMB145 aircraft which is likely to be registered as 5N-BOZ.
The airline website says, “Air Taraba is the modern official airline of Taraba State in Nigeria. Founded on the principles of safety, comfort and professional service Air Taraba operates out of Taraba Airport and provides a wide spectrum of expert aviation services.
“With a fleet of modern aircraft, experienced pilots, friendly flight crews and vigilant ground staff, Air Taraba sets a new standard of private aviation in West Africa. Our private aviation, charter and cargo services offer unprecedented access to Nigeria’s south-eastern regions, as well as many additional destinations worldwide.” However, the airline has yet to start operations.