2012… Air Crashes Too Many In Nigeria

Six years after a Nigerian 18-seater Dornier 228 Air Force transport plane, carrying 15 senior army officers and three crewmembers crashed leaving only three survivors that sustained serious injuries on September 17, 2006, 2012 will go down in history as the year that recorded the most recurrence of plane crashes in the country since the first recorded incident, which happened on January 22, 1973, when Royal Jordanian Airlines flight 707, carrying 171 Nigerian Muslims returning from Mecca crashed in Kano, killing five crewmen.

Wreckage of the ill-fated Dana crash of June 3, being removed at Iju Ishaga, agege, Lagos.

Wreckage of the ill-fated Dana crash of June 3, being removed at Iju Ishaga, agege, Lagos.

Though air transportation is seen as the fastest and safest of the three forms of transportation; water, land and air, but it is not short of its disasters.
The first of five crashes that threw the country into national mourning this year was on Wednesday, March 14, when a helicopter conveying the newly promoted Deputy Inspector General of Police, Haruna John, with three other senior police officers crashed in Jos. The Police helicopter was to convey the officers from Jos to Abuja, and took off from the Jos prison field. However, after one and half kilometer of flight, it crashed into a house where the occupants were said to have escaped before the planed finally crash landed.

President Goodluck Jonathan (left) and Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) at the scene of the Dana Air plane crash in Lagos.                        PHOTO: PAUL OLOKO

President Goodluck Jonathan (left) and Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) at the scene of the Dana Air plane crash in Lagos… June 5, 2012. PHOTO: PAUL OLOKO

Just before Sunday, June 3, when the nation was thrown into mourning again as a Dana Airlines Flight 9J 992 carrying 153 passengers on board crashed into Iju-Ishaga, a densely populated residential area of Lagos, killing all passengers on board, a Nigerian cargo plane, attempting to take off from the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, crashed few hours earlier on Saturday night, killing 10 people and injuring an unspecified number of others. The plane smashed through the airport’s fence before slamming into cars and a bus loaded with passengers on a nearby street.
Four months after, precisely October 25, governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai and five of his aides narrowly escaped death when a Cessna 208 aircraft marked 5N-BMJ and was piloted by Suntai, reportedly lost contact with the Yola Control Tower 38 miles to landing, after leaving Jalingo, the Taraba State capital and crashed into a hill in Adamawa.

Late Yakowa (right) with Special Assistant to the President on Research and Documentation, Oronto Douglas (left) and Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson at the burial in Okoroba, Bayelsa ... shortly before the crash

Late Yakowa (right) with Special Assistant to the President on Research and Documentation, Oronto Douglas (left) and Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson at the burial in Okoroba, Bayelsa … shortly before the crash

Just when the nation thought they had seen an end to air crashes for 2012, the nation was jolted with the news of four persons, including Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State and former National Security Adviser to the president, General Owoeye Azazi, who were reportedly burnt in a helicopter crash that occurred in the forest of Okoroba community in Nembe local government of Bayelsa State.

HERE is a chronicle of some recent plane crashes in Nigeria.
December 10, 2005 – A Nigerian Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 crashes in Port Harcourt, killing all 103 on board. Most on board were school children going home for Christmas.
October 22, 2005 – A Nigerian Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 airliner with 117 people on board crashes and disintegrates in flames shortly after take-off from Lagos. All on board killed.
May 4, 2002 – Nigerian EAS Airlines’ BAC 1-11-500 with 105 people on board crashed and burst into flames in a poor, densely populated suburb of Kano killing 76 on board and 72 on the ground, a total of 148 dead.

The first of the casualties of air crashed in 2012,late DIG John Haruna

The first of the casualties of air crashed in 2012,late DIG John Haruna

November 7, 1996 – A Nigerian ADC (Aviation Development Corporation) Airline Boeing 727-231 flying from Port Harcourt to Lagos with 142 passengers and nine crew members crashed on landing, plunging into a lagoon with all on board killed.
November 13, 1995 – Nigeria Airways Boeing 737-2F9 crashes on landing in Kaduna killing nine.
June 24, 1995 – Harka Air Services Tupolev 34 crashes on landing in Lagos killing 16.


Seven Years After Bellview Crash… Government’s Neglect Sinks Lisa Village In Depression

By Gbenga Akinfenwa

Entrance to the arcade built by the Federal Government in honour of the 117 victims that died after the ill-fated Boeing 737 plane owned by the defunct Bellview Airline crashed on October 22, 2005. It is overgrown with weeds and bushes.

Not many would remember Lisa village, site of the ill-fated Boeing 737 plane owned by the defunct Bellview Airline, which claimed the lives of 117 people. Though it was a tragic incidence that threw the whole nation into mourning on October 22, 2005; seven years after, the grief has been reduced to a faint memory by Nigerians, relations of victims and government.
Lisa, a remote community in Ifo local government area of Ogun State is about 40 kilometres from Sango. But for the crash that gave it prominence, the community would have probably remained unknown. The disaster has, however, done little to uplift the infrastructure of the village despite government’s yearly fanfare to mark the day.
Seven years after, the eerie silence that last Monday pervaded the Lisa Memorial Arcade and Garden – jointly built by Ogun and the federal governments was never imagined, considering government’s routine jamboree in the first five years of the anniversary.
Though dead and long rested, the 117 crash victims would find it difficult in the world beyond to decipher the unusual stillness that ruled the arcade last week. During a visit to the arcade, built to serve the dual purpose of a resting place for the souls of the victims and also a tourist centre, it was a diminished edifice that greeted The Guardian.
The bushes at the front gate of the muddy entrance had wildly grown; but for a narrow footpath, there wouldn’t have been any access to the arcade. The surrounding bushes too are begging for urgent attention, which is derogatory to the memory of the victims.
In seven years, the arcade has lost its radiant look. The paints are fast fading and the walls are cracking too. Though there were signs of a recent weeding of the graveyard, it still looks unkempt. The floor of a section of the arcade from the entrance is already sinking. Sadly, nametags attached to the cenotaph are falling off, making it difficult for victims’ relations who had visited the site for long to locate their departed.

Garden of the arcade

While there was no representatives from both the state and federal governments, only relations of two victims were at the arcade that Monday to remember their loved ones. Just nine people, including The Guardian signed the visitor’s register. Even tourists who had shown interest in the centre deserted the arcade.
Some villagers attributed the uncanny neglect to the bad state of the road, which is discouraging regular visitors to the arcade. It was a nightmare getting to the site as the road constructed shortly after the crash has deteriorated. Erosion has washed away the tarred portions of the road, leaving it with wide ditches. With the raining season, the condition of road has worsened.
From Sango through Ijoko-Ogba-Oluke, the road is so bad that transporters have abandoned the route. The only available means is through commercial motorcycles, popularly called Okada, who charge exorbitant fees to the discomfort of commuters.

Though the community has moved on with life after the tragic incident, Lisa is suffering from government’s neglect. There is no primary and secondary schools in the community. The nearest secondary school to Lisa is in Oluke, which is already over-populated. There is no hospital; the nearest one is in Ota, which is about 40 kilometres away, while the area also lacks a police post to safeguard the lives of residents.

Bad road leading to Lisa Village

This discomforting situation has forced the Baale of the community, Chief Najeem Oladele Odugbemi, to embark on many self-help projects, including the construction of a police station, health centre and market to make life meaningful for his subjects. The state government, through the ministries of Community Development and Culture and Tourism recently visited the community, promising to execute some valuable facilities, but nothing has been heard from the state since then.
A resident, Mr. Aliu Saheed, recalled that the crash was a sad moment for residents but they have overcome it, adding that the volume of human traffic and government presence the community witnessed for about three years after the incident had since ceased.
He lamented that Lisa lacks basic amenities, a government responsibility the community leader has hugely taken on his shoulders to make residents live comfortably.
For Chief Odugbemi, there is nothing to cheer about the anniversary because government has not kept its promise to the community. He lamented that the memorial arcade had been left to rot away like other monuments in the country.
“The primary duty of government is to take care of the welfare of the people and provide security. We applied through the state Police command for the approval of a police station for us and we laid the foundation in 2008 with my personal effort. We have reached a level where government and the police should help us to complete it and make it operational.
“How can a community survive without health centre, talk less of a hospital. I started the building of a health centre, which is about 70 percent completed. We are even contemplating putting up a secondary school here. I have acquired over two acres of land for that too, using my personal money to acquire it from my people here. So, if government comes tomorrow and need a land to build school for us, the land is already secured.”

Baale of Lisa, Chief Najeem Odugbemi

The Baale pleaded with the governor, Ibikunle Amosun, to make true the promises made by his commissioners who visited Lisa to inspect ongoing projects in the community. “All we are saying is that we need government’s support. We are tired of taking over their responsibility. Government is a father to everybody and as such, must live up to its responsibilities,” he stated.
Residents are also appealing to the state to upgrade the status of the Baale to a monarch in order to use his connections to bring more developmental projects to the community. Joseph Ayoola said “Lisa is big enough to have an Oba. This is the time for government to upgrade our leader and link us with the national grid.”