Three ministers, Chief Edem Duke of Culture and Tourism Development, Senator Umar Idris of Transport as well as Minister of State for Defence, Olushola Obada, yesterday gave graphic details of their encounter with the ill-fated Dana Airline plane that crashed in Lagos last Sunday.
Narrating their experiences at a special session of the Federal Executive Council Meeting, the ministers said but for divine intervention, they would have been victims.
In his comment, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Edem Duke said he was made to board another airline against his preferred choice of Dana when he got to the Abuja airport.
According to him: “A critical lesson to the living is that the future is not in our hands. Those who have the opportunity to serve this country must ensure love bond and know that every minute counts. I was lucky to be navigated around them and ushered into another flight which was not my preferred flight”.
Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke said: “I watched the take-off of the aircraft at the airport before I left Abuja. We saw the fire when we were landing and we asked ourselves what was causing the fire and we were very sad on landing to hear that the plane had crashed. We lost five of our trusted hands. It is a turbulent time for Nigeria. Our prayers must be deeper because deep must call to the deep. We need to say that 20 years old plane can fly, they do all over the world. But we must ensure that engines are replaced when due. Punitive measure when we found out the cause must be fully implemented”.
Transport Minister, Senator Umar Idris who said he flew the same plane from Lagos to Abuja the same day, said the plane crash is a wake up call. According to him: “There is destiny in everything. There is hand of God in everything. Every man will taste death. Any time any one dies, his time has come. I used that same aircraft same day from Lagos and came to Abuja by 2pm. In the conduct of investigation, certain issues will be addressed to avoid recurrence.”
Special session for victims
Yesterday’s Special session marked the end of the three-day mourning declared by the federal government in the wake of the plane crash on Sunday. And to underscore the uniqueness of the session, the FEC was open to members of the media who sat through the session which ended at 3 p.m.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, read out the focus of the meeting, after which a roll call of victims was read out.
A minute silence was observed in honour of those who lost their lives in the crash.
The Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah who spoke on the incidence said there was dual engine failure of the aircraft at 3.42 p.m. on Sunday while fiire trucks mobilised within 20 minutes.
She said those involved in the crash included 136 adults, five children, six infants, six crew members, adding that the Pilot was an American, while the co-pilot was an Indian.
Oduah also reported that Allied Air cargo plane overran runway in Kotoka Airport in Ghana, on Saturday June 2nd.
She said the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) was being supported by the aircraft and engine manufacturers according to international laws. According to her, 148 bodies (including those on ground) have been recovered as at Tuesday.
It was weekend of sorrow – Health Minister
In his remarks, Minister of Health, Dr. Onyeakachi Chukwu said: “It was a weekend of sorrow for Nigerians. Actions taken so far by FG, Ministry, Lagos etc are all in good direction. Nigerians should remain calm and put their trust in God. Government will ensure victims don’t die in vain. Aviation sector is like medicine, safety cannot be taken for granted. Government will take proper action if and any lapse is found during investigation. May God intervention heal our nation”.
The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro described the incident as unfortunate but commended rescue workers and assured that the panel’s recommendations will address many issues.
Works Minister, Mike Onolememen, said this was clearly not the best of times for Nigeria. “While we pray for the repose of the victims, it calls for retrospection. We ‘ve experienced several crashes. The circumstances recur years after. It appears that the only motive for operators is economic at the detriment of lives of Nigerians. It is time to float a national airline. It may not be wholly owned by government, some people can subscribe to it. The lives of Nigerians are too precious to be left at the whims and caprices of businessmen whose main objective is to make profit”.
Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: “To the bereaved, we cannot replace their loved ones. But we can enhance safety so that our airspace will not become a place of carnage and loss of lives. We should also look at the financial and economic strength of the airlines to work towards consolidation”.
Head of Service of the Federation, Isa Bello Sali, described the incident as tragic as many professionals perished in the crash. “We join all Nigerians in mourning”.