Following last Saturday’s helicopter crash in Bayelsa State which claimed the lives of former Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa and erstwhile National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi and the setting up of an investigative team to probe the incident, the Senate, yesterday, urged the executive to publish reports of previous investigations into air crashes before any new probe could attract the confidence of Nigerians.
Condemning the resurgence of air mishaps in Nigeria, the Senate said it had become obvious that the Federal Government was no longer capable of coming up with solutions to causes of air crashes.
The Senate also vowed to carry out what it described as a holistic probe into the remote and immediate causes of last Saturday’s air mishap involving a military aircraft.
The Senate decisions followed deliberation on a motion moved by Senator Chris Anyanwu, APGA, Imo East for an investigation into the crash of the Naval Augusta 109 Helicopter in Bayelsa State last Saturday.
Moving the motion yesterday, Senator Anyanwu who is also Chairperson of the Senate Commitee on Navy, said: “Senate notes that in 2007 and 2011, there had been two crashes of similar Augusta helicopters owned by the Navy; worried at the seeming recurrence of air mishaps not just in civil aviation, but also in the Nigerian Military, despite public outcry; aware that between March and October 2011, there were three reported cases of air mishaps by the Airforce at different locations in the country, and that the causes of these crashes remain unknown.
“Further aware that on March 21, 2011, one F7-NI fighter jet, belonging to the Nigerian Airforce that was on a routine training programme, crashed in Kano, killing the flight instructor. The F7 fighter jet, which was reported to have come from Makurdi for two weeks training exercise was delivered to the Airforce by the manufacturers in China only a few days before the incident.
“Recalls that on September 17, 2006, in Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, an 18-Seater Dornier 228 Airforce transport plane carrying senior army officers and three crew members crashed, leaving only three survivors. The victims were members of a committee set up by the government to reposition the Nigerian Army and were enroute Obudu Cattle Ranch where the officers were to hold the retreat.”
Presiding Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, overruled a motion for the three committees to carry out a joint independent investigation on the crash.
Senator Abaribe had told his colleagues that the three committees could only assist whatever committee the Executive would set up to investigate the crash, adding that the committees which were saddled with responsibilities of investigating similar air crashes in the past, never came out with any reasonable results as findings.
About 15,000 lives lost in two years
Following deliberation on the motion, the Senate resolved as follows: “That the Senate condemns the resurgence of air mishaps in Nigerioa and the seeming inability of government to unravel the causes of the incidents.
“That the Senate do mandate the Committees on Navy, Airforce and Aviation to investigate the frequency of these mishaps with a view to finding a permanent solution.
“That Senate observes a one minute silence in honour of the victims of Saturday’s air crash in Tombi, Bayelsa state.
“The federal Government should publish past reports of investigations into Air mishaps. Summarising the debate, the deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who presided said: “I think we have recorded too many deaths in this country in the last two years, from 2010 when terrorism reared its ugly head in Nigeria. And since then, we have had too many deaths in Nigeria, some arising from terrorism, some arising from kidnapping, some from armed robbery, and some from ritual killings, accidents, road mishaps, air disasters, boat mishaps and all kinds of incidents that have visited us over the years.
“The truth is that people are dying on daily basis in our country, which is very regrettable. I believe within the last one to two years, we have lost over 15,000 people, which is about the population of some countries. Yes, Nigeria is a big country with so much population but this population is depleting by the day by all these incidents, so this calls for all of us and leaders in this country to see what we need to do to halt this trend.
“As we have said here, I think our regulatory agencies need to wake up, to ensure that only airworthy planes take off and land in this country, ensure that the pilots are well trained and where maintenance needs to be done is done. And of course, some of the people have died because of security lapses.
“That is one area that I will emphasise that we should also wake up because the protection of lives and property is the primary purpose of governance. We, as leaders, need to buckle up to ensure that we take care of these problems before we lose our dear population.”
He announced the setting up of two committees, headed by Deputy Senate leader, Abdul Ningi, PDP Bauchi Central, and Minority Whip, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, ACN, Lagos West. Ekweremadu added that members would visit the bereaved families.