Louis Ibah, Lagos and Juliana Taiwo- Obanlonye , Abuja
Two Nigerians were confirmed to be among the casualties as an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 MAX aircraft crashed in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya.
Ambassador Abiodun Oluremi Bashua was one of the Nigerians involved in the ill-fated crash.
There were no survivors on the crashed plane, which had 157 persons on board, comprising 149 passengers and eight crew members.
Spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines in Nigeria, Mr. Ikechi Uko, told Daily Sun that one of the Nigerians on board the aircraft was Ambassador Abiodun Bashua (who flew with a United Nations passport). He said the other casualty was Nigerian-born Prof. Pius Adesanmi (he was carrying a Canadian passport onboard the aircraft)
“We lost one of our own. A high-profile Nigerian, Ambassdaor Abiodun Bashua, in the crash. He was the former UN and AU Deputy Joint Special Representative in Darfur, Sudan,” Uko said.
Bashua was a retired ambassador and on contract with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Kenya had 32 nationals, Canada, 18; Ethiopia, nine; China, eight; Italy, eight; the United States, eight; the United Kingdom, seven; France, seven; Egypt, six; and Germany, five, among other nationals onboard the crashed aircraft.
The airline, in a statement on Sunday, said it “deeply regrets the fatal accident involved on ET302 on March 10, 2019, on a scheduled flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.”
“The group CEO of Ethiopian Airline, who is at the accident scene right now, regrets to confirm that there are no survivors. He expresses his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” the statement added.
The airline said the 737-800 MAX, with registration number ET-AVJ, took off at 08:38am local time from Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport and lost contact with the control tower at 08:44am.
Ethiopian Airlines said once it lost contact with the aircraft, it quickly launched a search and rescue operation for possible survivors or casualties.
In an earlier statement, while announcing the crash of the plane, Ethiopian Airlines said staff were sent to the accident scene to do everything possible to assist the emergency services.
“It is believed that there were 149 passengers and eight crew onboard the flight but we are currently confirming the details of the passenger manifest for the flight,” the airline said.
“Ethiopian Airlines is establishing a passenger information centre and telephone number will be available shortly for family or friends of those who may have been on flight ET302/10 March. Ethiopian Airlines will release further information as soon as it is available,” the airline added.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement by its spokesperson, George Ehidiamen Edokpa, said Bashua, a retired career ambassador, was until his death on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA).
He said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, regrets to announce the untimely demise of Ambassador Abiodun Oluremi Bashua, a retired career ambassador, who was on contract with the UNECA.
“Ambassador Bashua was among 149 passengers and eight crew members that were on board the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 to Nairobi, Kenya, that crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday, March 10, 2019, killing all on board.
“The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and members of staff of the ministry received the sad news of his death with great shock and prayed that the Almighty God grant his family and the nation the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has described the plane crash in which all the 149 passengers and eight crew members died as shocking.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Buhari, while reacting to the news in Daura, Katsina State, said: “Such large-scale loss of human lives in a single incident is shocking beyond words. I am profoundly touched by this devastating report of air accident involving one of the world’s most successful and efficient airlines. Given its remarkable safety record. This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Ethiopian Airlines.”
The President, on behalf of the government and the people of Nigeria, extended his condolences to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, the people of Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada, China and all other nations who lost their citizens in the air disaster.
The President also commiserated with the families of the victims and prayed that God Almighty would grant the souls of the departed eternal rest.
According to Buhari, “like every other African leader, I am proud of the fact that Ethiopian Airlines represents one of Africa’s success stories.”
The President expressed hope that the tragic accident would not have a negative effect on Ethiopian Airlines’ passion for excellence.