Senator Condemns Use Of Crashed Naval Helicopter For Politicians As Senate Mandates Investigations

Senator Condemns Use Of Crashed Naval Helicopter For Politicians As Senate Mandates Investigations

The Senate also called on the government to publish reports of investigative panels into air crashes in the country.

A Senator, Olubunmi Adetumbi (ACN Ekiti), Tuesday, condemned the use of a military helicopter for use by civilians during the burial of the father of a presidential adviser, Oronto Douglas.

One of the naval helicopters used for the burial ceremony in Bayelsa crashed and killed its six occupants including the Governor of Kaduna, Patrick Yakowa; and the former National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi.

Mr. Adetunmbi said the use of the naval helicopter by unauthorized politicians was a symbol of the corruption within the Nigerian system.

The Senator spoke on the floor of the Senate during a debate on a motion sponsored by Chris Anyanwu (PDP, Imo) on the urgent need to investigate the recent crash of Naval Augusta Helicopter in Bayelsa.

He said the death of Mr. Yakowa, Mr. Azazi and others was a result of the failure of the system to address the issue of corruption.

Mr. Adetumbi said the crashed helicopter is called a military training helicopter, but was obviously not being used for military training on that day.

He said that pertinent questions, such as who authorised the use of the helicopter for civilian purposes must be asked and answers given.

“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?” Mr. Adetumbi asked.

He called on the parliament 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.

Senators condemn air mishap

Meanwhile, the Senate condemned what it described as the resurgence of air mishaps in the country, and mandated its committees on Navy, Air force and Aviation to investigate the frequency of these mishaps.

The Senate also called on government to publish all previous reports of investigative panels into air crashes in the country.

The Senate took these decisions in Abuja on Tuesday after the motion by Ms. Anyanwu.

The debate is on the urgent need to investigate the recent crash of Naval Augusta Helicopter in Bayelsa.

Leading the debate on the motion, Ms. Anyanwu 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.

She said 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.

Other Senators support

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.

Another senator and former Gombe Governor, Danjuma Goje, also advised the committee to make the investigation open and transparent.

Mr. 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) said that there had been several crashes and investigations followed, but the reports had never seen the light of the day.

He suggested that the committee 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 called on the regulatory agencies in the aviation sector to ensure the airworthiness of every plane that took off and landed in the country.

Mr. Ekweremadu noted the need for the Senate to buckle up and tackle the problem once and for all.

The Senate also set up two committees to pay condolence visits to all the victims of the air crash and observed a minute silence in their honour.

Meanwhile, the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, was adjourned to another legislative day.

The Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, had proposed that the lead debate be taken on Tuesday as the first allotted day.

Senators, however, noted that in view of the motion that had just been taken on air crash and the mood of the nation over the incident there was need to adjourn for the day. 

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