Following Sunday morning crash of Nigerian Air Force jet at Bassa village, near Abuja airport runway, which claimed seven officers, military observers have been asking why very young officers without much flying experience were deployed for the hazardous mission of searching for the kidnapped Kagara School students in ungoverned dangerous forests in Niger State.
Among the personnel on board, the most senior officer was Fly Lt. Haruna Gadzama, the captain, who was among 14 pilots that were ‘Winged’ by the NAF only in 2018 after completion of flight training in Nigeria and South Africa.
Others were Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo (Co-Pilot), Flying Officer Michael Okpara (Airborne Tactical Observation System (ATOS) Specialist, Warrant Officer Bassey Etim (ATOS Specialist), Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi (ATOS Specialist), Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka (ATOS Specialist) and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (Onboard Technician).
An expert, who pleaded anonymity, wondered why senior and more experienced pilots, such as a Squadron Leader or a Wing Commander, was not assigned the role of flight captain, to be assisted by one of the flight lieutenants, which is often the practice.
Another expert noted that if a more experienced pilot was put in charge, the impact of the air crash would most probably have been less fatal as he would have managed the crisis better, since the aircraft was a relatively small plane.
Experienced pilot would’ve jettisoned fuel, prevented explosion
“For instance, an experienced pilot would have jettisoned the fuel as the aircraft was struggling mid air before crash landing and this would have prevented the fire explosion that consumed both the plane and the officers,” he said.
ACF, Nigerians in diaspora lament crash
Meanwhile, reactions have continued to trail the crash of Nigerian Air Force plane in Abuja on Sunday. Reacting to the crash yesterday, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, described the victims as gallant officers who died in the service of their fatherland.
ACF in a statement by National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, condoled with the Chief of Air Staff, officers and men of the Air Force and the families of the seven officers, who died in the crash.
The forum prayed that God will give their close family members and their military colleagues the fortitude to bear their untimely death. Also reacting, Nigerians living in the United States have lamented the crash, saying they were deeply saddened by the development.
In a statement by Mr Emmanuel Ogebe, the diaspora Nigerians said: “While condoling with the families of the valiant officers, who died in the line of duty, we must ask some pertinent questions.
‘’If the team was going to assist with the rescue of the abducted school children, why was it leaving more than 72 hours after the students were abducted when it is globally normative that the first 48 hours are the most mission critical?
“Given the seven-year history of school mass abductions and massacres, Nigeria should have been better prepared for rapid responses.
“Niger State is the nearest to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory as the FCT was carved out of Niger State, so why was air transportation used when the road trip to Minna is shorter than to Makurdi, Jos, Lokoja or Kaduna, all neighboring states’ capitals?
“Once again, the misprioritisation of resources has resulted in an avoidable air catastrophe. There should be limited military aviation operations over the capital city to minimize the danger to vital installations and population centre. We recall that an aviator similarly crashed in Abuja, also during our mission a couple of years ago.
“Was it the threat of abduction by the notorious Fulani kidnap syndicate that caused the rescue team to fly instead of drive the short distance on the dreaded Abuja-Kaduna express way?
‘’If we have army Generals with military escorts taking the train out of fear and then rescue teams taking a flight to evade abduction, then our security situation is a joke.”
“We request that the Nigerian government provides full reports on all the military aviation mishaps, including incidents cited by Prof Farooq Kperogi: “When a Nigerian Air Force jet bombed an IDP camp in Rann, Borno State, on January 17, 2017 in error, which caused the death of at least 115 people, Muhammadu Buhari didn’t find it worth his while to console them, much less visit them.
“About three months later, on March 22, 2017, Boko Haram bombed another IDP camp in the Muna Garage area of Maiduguri. Again, there was insouciant silence from the same government that is bending over backwards to please Boko Haram terrorists.”