Though probes have been ordered into the helicopter crash that claimed six lives on Saturday, December 15, 2012, only a few Nigerians are optimistic that the real reasons behind the crash may ever become public knowledge.
The Nigerian Navy has stated that the Italian made Augusta A109 that crashed in Okoroba, Bayelsa State was in good condition before the crash. Navy authorities disclosed that the chopper, like others in its fleet went through a routine service in November. Not many Nigerians are however convinced about the air worthiness of the ill-fated helicopter or even other military aircraft. The maintenance of Nigeria’s military gear is already being called to question. There were also insinuations that the helicopter made as many as twelve trips that very day.
The crash has continued to generate questions. People have continued to ask “why should a military helicopter be deployed to carry civilian VIP to a party hosted by a politician?” Before a military helicopter would embark on such a mission, there has to be an order, “who issued that directive?” Did it come from the Presidency or did Mr Oronto Douglas use his clout as the President’s aide to pull the strings?
While sabotage is being alleged, findings have revealed that the incident might simply have stemmed from the gross misuse of power and privileges, which have become a characteristic of Nigeria’s system.
Findings have revealed that the helicopters in the fleet of the Nigerian Navy should mainly include surveillance and protection, especially in areas around Nigeria’s territorial waters as well as usage along with the warships of the Navy. They could also be used in the movement of Naval personnel if need be especially during training exercises and in war situations. The Augusta A 109 has spaces for 8 people, an indication that it is not a mass transit aircraft.
Nigeria’s leaders are known to enjoy power and its attendant trappings to the fullest. Years ago, just after Nigeria hosted the World Youth Soccer Championship, the generating set that powered the National Stadium, Surulere suddenly disappeared. The media made so much noise about the incident and it was eventually found out that the then Sports Minister “borrowed” it to supply light to his village during the burial of his in-law. Perhaps the generator would have gone forever if not for the attention the disappearance received.
The abuse of power and privileges have eaten so deep into the Nigerian system that it cuts across every sector. Politicians who are not holding office have been known to have armed police escorts. Years back, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the ruling party, Chief Chris “Eselu” Uba had not less than 16 mobile policemen as escorts whenever he was going outside his hometown.
Otunba Johnson Fasawe too enjoyed a similar privilege while his friendship with the Presidency lasted. His home neighbourhood in Owo was well secured, thanks to the deployment of stern looking mobile policemen who were stationed at his gates 24 hours of the day.
While the nation continues to mourn the occupants of the ill-fated helicopter, it is an actual fact that the Navy pilots on board died in the line of duty, but whether that duty was what they should be engaged in at that particular time is already a subject of debate.