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Obasanjo: 3 Crashes in 2 Months Unacceptable

Posted by From Juliana Taiwo in Abuja on 2005/12/12 | Views: 317 |

Obasanjo: 3 Crashes in 2 Months Unacceptable


President Olusegun Oba-sanjo yesterday said he would convene a meeting of stakeholders in the aviation sector today to find solution to a situation in which the nation experienced three tragic plane crashes within a spate of two months.

Suspends aviation ministry perm sec, spares minister, •’Crashed plane over

President Olusegun Oba-sanjo yesterday said he would convene a meeting of stakeholders in the aviation sector today to find solution to a situation in which the nation experienced three tragic plane crashes within a spate of two months.

The former owner of the crashed aircraft, Serbia’s JAT Airways, was reported to have said yesterday that the aircraft was more than 32 years old.

The President who reiterated the need for a critical assessment of institutional and human capacity deficiencies in the sector, as a prelude to urgent reforms, also directed that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Aviation, Mr. T.D. Oyelade, and the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr. Esai Dangabar, should proceed on indefinite leave immediately.

But there was no word about the Aviation Minister, Prof. Babalola Borishade, who seems to enjoy presidential confidence.

Oyelade, according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mrs Oluremi Oyo, is to hand over his duties to the most senior director in the ministry.

The President also ordered that the Nigerian flag be flown at half mast for the next three days as part of national mourning for those who lost their lives in last Saturday's Sosoliso Airline plane crash that killed 107 of the 110 passengers on board.

Obasanjo made the declaration when he led a government delegation on a condolence visit to Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja to commiserate with the school authority on the untimely death of 62 of its students who were returning home to spend the Christmas holiday with their families.

Obasanjo who lamented the loss of several lives, especially children, however, ruled out superstition, saying what happened should be regarded as the will of God.

"Within a spate of less than two months, we have had monumental air crashes. One in Lagos, one in Kaduna and the third in Port Harcourt. Some people might be partly superstitious or see it in another way, but I would not want to think that way because anything that happens is because God allows it to happen,” he said.

The President who signed a condolence register opened at the school chapel, said the children whom their parents were equipping for the future and the service of God had been snatched away prematurely by death.

“But as believers and children of God, we have to accept our fate and console ourselves that they are in the bosom of the Lord. Let's grief but lets grief like those who have hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” the President said.

He reiterated that he had called for a meeting of all stakeholders in the aviation sector, stressing that his action was necessitated by the need to restore people's confidence, which had been shaken since the incessant air crashes in the country within very short period.

Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Reverend John Onaiyekan, who received Obasanjo and his entourage on behalf of the school principal, who was away to Port Harcourt to commiserate with the parents of the children who lost their lives in the air crash, said: "Up till now, the exact number of children on board the ill-fated plane was yet to be ascertained."

According to him, the school is planning to celebrate a special mass for the repose of the souls of the departed students and a senior Reverend Father who is on that flight.

Also speaking, the Minister of Education, Mrs. Chinwe Nora Obaji, attributed the crash to the decay in the education system, which she described as "garbage in, garbage out".

According to her, the incidence would have been prevented if those in charge were capable of properly handling the situation. "What is happening in the aviation sector is as a fall-out of all forms of corruption in the education sector, ranging from examination malpractices, certificate forgery and lack of dedication to academic pursuit as well as preference to buy certificates rather than obtaining it through merit".

This, she said, had been the driving force of her ministry in the pursuit for post-Universities Matriculation (UME) screening to ensure that only those qualified and ready to learn got into the university.

She described the air crash as a big loss not only to Nigerians, parents and relations of the deceased, but also to her personally, having lost two cousins in the crash. "The nation has lost not only a lot of children, but very intelligent and gifted children. This is because this Loyola Jesuit College is one of the best in the country, and it is not where anybody can gain admission without being extra brainy," she said.

Among the dignitaries on Obasanjo's entourage were the Minister of Aviation, Prof. Babalola Borishade and the Special Adviser on Political Affairs to the President, Prof. Jerry Gana.

Meanwhile, some of the students that spoke to newsmen on the incident expressed their disappointment with the management of the aviation sector.
According to them, it amounts to gross irresponsibility for an airport not to have enough facility such as water for emergencies.

Meanwhile, Borishade, who had earlier signed the condolence register, also addressed the students in the Assembly Hall and implored them to take heart and accept his heartfelt condolence over the death of their colleagues.
He reiterated the commitment of Federal Government to actualise the completion of the total radar coverage of the country's airspace.

He unequivocally stated that the neglect of the aviation sector in the past contributed scientifically to most of the problems being experienced and pledged to do everything possible to ensure the comfort and safety of all air travelers in the country.

He disclosed that he was in Canada two days ago to meet with experts to supervise and facilitate the installation of Radar in the country's airports to replace the obsolete ones installed in 1978.

Borishade said the ministry, under his leadership was committed to cleaning the Aegean stable in the industry as the services of auditing consultants, Akintola Williams and J. K. Randle, had been contracted to scrutinise the books of key parastatals between now and January next year.

"This is with a view to exposing those who perpetrated corruption and brought the industry to ridicule," he said.

The culprit, according to the minister, will be handed over to the appropriate authorities for further necessary action.

Meanwhile, information emerged yesterday that the crashed Sosoliso aircraft was more than 32 years old, according to the Serb national airline that once owned the plane.

Serbia's JAT Airways said Monday that Sosoliso Airlines had bought the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 from it, along with three others in 2000.
Sosoliso was established in 1994 and began domestic flights in July 2000 in a technical partnership with JAT Airways.

JAT disclosed it sold the ageing planes to Sosoliso because they could no longer meet most European standards due to loud noise levels produced by the jet's two engines.

The airline’s spokesperson, Zeljka Stojanovic, said the DC-9 that crashed were delivered to JAT by McDonnell Douglas in February 1973 and served with the former Yugoslav Airlines for 27 years.

JAT mechanics who had maintained Sosoliso's aircraft for several years in Nigeria finally left that country in 2004.


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