A Senator, Olubunmi Adetumbi (ACN Ekiti) on Tuesday condemned the use of a military training helicopter by civilians during the burial of the father of a presidential adviser, Oronto Douglas.
Speaking during a debate on the urgent need to investigate the recent helicopter crash in Bayelsa, Senator Adetumbi said the death of the former Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, former National Security Adviser Andrew Azazi and others was as a result of the failure of the system to address the issue of corruption.
According to him, the crashed helicopter is called a military training helicopter, but it is obviously not being used for military training on that day.
He said that pertinent questions, such as who
“Who gave the order for the chopper to be used? What is the purpose of private charter helicopter? Why was a private chopper not hired? Is it what the Navy appropriation is being used for?” Senator Adetumbi asked.
He called on the National Assembly to do more than paying tribute to the deceased and observing one minute silence in their honour, but to take action to forestall future occurrences.
Other lawmakers who contributed to the debate condemned what they described as the resurgence of air mishaps in the country calling on the government to publish all previous reports of investigative panels into air crashes in the Nigeria.
Chris Anyanwu (APGA – Imo) said that in 2007 and 2011, there had been two crashes of similar Augusta helicopters owned by the navy. She expressed concerns over the seeming recurrence of air mishaps not just in civil aviation, but also in the Nigerian Military in spite of public outcry.
“Between March and October 2011, there were three reported cases of air mishaps by the Air force at different locations in the country and the causes of these crashes remain unknown. On March 21, 2011, one F7-NI fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force that was on a routine training programme crashed in Kano, killing the flight instructor.
“The fighter jet, which was reported to have come from Makurdi for a two week training exercise was delivered to the Air force by the manufacturers in China only a few days before the incident,” she said.
According to her, it is worrisome that the resurgence of air mishaps in the country is suggestive of a deep seated systems problem which must be unearthed and resolved.
Contributing to the debate, Heineken Lokpobiri (PDP-Bayelsa) urged the committee to ensure that its investigation was devoid of bias and should not be politicised.
“We should use this crash to stop others from occurring because this has become embarrassing, so the committee’s investigation must be total,’’ he said.
Danjuma Goje (PDP-Gombe) also advised the committee to make the investigation open and transparent. Goje said he was in support of the position of the Governors Forum that foreign experts should be involved in the investigation.
Ganiyu Solomon (ACN Lagos) also said that there had been several crashes and investigations followed, but the reports had never seen the light of the day.
He was of the view that the Senate committees on Navy, Air force and Aviation mandated to investigate the frequency of these mishaps should go as far as visiting the manufacturers of these planes to ascertain their air worthiness.
He expressed concerns that if military planes were crashing frequently, it was an indication that the military was not prepared for military action should the need arise.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary said that more than 50,000 Nigerians had died in the last two years since the ugly trend of terrorism reared its head.
He however, called on the regulatory agencies in the aviation sector to ensure the airworthiness of every plane that took off and landed in the country.
The deputy senate president also noted the need for the Senate to buckle up and tackle the problem once and for all.
The Senate set up two committees to pay condolence visits to all the victims of the air crash and observed a minute silence in their honour.