From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Families who lost their loved ones in the ill-fated Dana Air crash of June 3, 2012, yesterday, gathered in Lagos and Abuja to honour their loved ones.
Prominent amongst them is a former Supervisory Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri whose husband, Professor Celestine Onwuliri, was involved in the crash.
Chairman of Safer Skies Nigeria Foundation, Sir Paul Okwulehie, in a statement issued on behalf of the families and victims of all plane crashes in Nigeria, said: “Today, as we did at the 8th anniversary on June 3, 2021 and indeed since 2013, we pause once again to draw strength from the memories of our loved ones to carry on.
“On June 3, 2012 we lost one hundred and fifty-nine of our own. While we struggle to advocate for the safety of air travels in Nigeria, current headline news is inundated with gory tales of abductions, unprecedented levels of kidnapping, rape, mass murder, banditry, terrorism, and killings of countless number of Nigerians on a large scale on daily basis.”
Okwulehie further said the political atmosphere has become oversaturated with combustive vitriols, tension and fear of large-scale civil strife that may degenerate into a blood bath, mass murder, genocide and forceful disintegration of the country if care was not taken.
He further said that more recently, concerns have been expressed over the rise in military plane crashes in Nigeria, adding that the crash of Air Force passenger jet Beechcraft King Air B350i at about 6pm at the Kaduna International Airport, a little over a week ago on Friday 21, 2021, called for sober reflection on aviation safety standards in Nigeria, including Nigeria Military aviation.
“The crash claimed the life of the Army Chief of Staff along with 10 other top military personnel, throwing their families into deep pain and agony similar to the one we experienced on June 3, 2012. May their souls rest in peace. We use the opportunity presented by the 9th anniversary of the loss of our loved ones in the Dana plane crash on June 3, 2012 to express our condolences to the families.
“We urge the Nigerian Military to undertake a detailed review of its aircraft maintenance culture, to investigate all aircraft accidents and near misses, and specifically establish the reasons the same aircraft model crashed twice in 3 months at time of landing. A thorough review of the eight fatal crashes that have occurred since 2015 has been called for and supported by this foundation.
“Equally important and of utmost concern to the Safer Skies Foundation is the welfare of the families and loved ones left behind by the Officers who lost their lives in the crash of Air Force passenger Jet Beechcraft King Air B350i. It is of utmost importance that applicable compensation and all benefits are paid to the Families and in good time to enable them pick up the pieces. We urge the Nigerian Military establishment to do its utmost to care and comfort the families and ensure that their standard of living while their breadwinners were alive is not compromised or lowered.
“We urge the families to join the effort of the Safer Skies Foundation so, collectively, we can fight to ensure that aviation in Nigeria, civil or military, is safe. This way we keep at bay the unimaginable pain and unbearable agony associated with the loss of a loved one in a plane crash especially when it is clearly avoidable.
“As agreed four years ago, we will mark the tenth anniversary in a significant way. We therefore welcome your suggestions. As usual, we will visit the Cenotaphs of our loved ones in Abuja and Lagos where we would pray quietly at 11am. Thank you for staying strong and finding your way through the darkness,” Okwulehie also said.
Okwulehie also told the members of the foundation that as a matter of necessity, they must redouble their effort to ensure that no Dana-like plane crash, similar to the one their loved ones endured on June 3, 2012 happened again in Nigeria.
“We once again extend our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in other plane crashes in Nigeria and around the world.
“We thank all Nigerians, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and all Governments around the World who are making strident effort to keep aviation safe and pleasurable, the COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding. God bless you all,” Okwulehie concluded.