Fresh Posers Over Vice President’s Helicopter Crash

Lagos – Why would the number two man in Nigeria be flying in chartered flights despite the array of airplanes and helicopters in the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF).

And why would the company managing the crashed police aircraft, Caverton Helicopter hastily attribute the crash to poor weather condition even when Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) was yet to come out with its report.

AIB is the only agency saddled with the responsibility of conducting investigation into major incidents and accidents in the sector.

These were some of the posers raised at the weekend by some aviation professionals, including, Group Capt John Ojikutu, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Centurion Security Services, Olumide Ohunayo, the Director, Research, Zenith Travels, Ilitrus Ahmadu,President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART, among others.

It would be recalled that the Presidency had said in 2015 that the Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) had 10 aircraft.

These are Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or AirForce One), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.

Some of the jets in the fleet have since been handed over to the Nigerian Air Force to boost its operations.

Although they acknowledged the fact that the accident could still have happened whether the aircraft was from the presidential fleet, but accused the presidency of negligence and poor handling of Vice President’s traveling arrangements.

Besides, the security arrangement at the scene of the crash was poor adding that more casualties would have been recorded if the aircraft had caught fire, adding that the security personnel should have condoned off the area immediately after the incident.

They also faulted the security details at the presidency wondering whether adequate inspections were not carried out by them before they embarked on the travel.

According to them, at best, Caverton does not have contract with the occupant of the office of Vice President but the All Progressives Party (APC) campaign group, which should have made adequate provision and taking precautionary measures.

They have also called for thorough investigation into the February 2, 2019 helicopter crash.

Speaking with our correspondent on the incident, Ojikutu, expressed surprise why Osinbajo would be traveling on chartered airplanes on official assignments.

Ojikutu insisted that the daily movements of the Vice President whether public or private were the responsibility of the office of the Vice President, arguing that the office existed because he was the number two man in the country.

Ojikutu however said that accident could still have happened whether the aircraft was from the presidential fleet, but insisted that the incident was as a result of negligence on the part of those responsible for his movement in the presidency.

He queried if there were planned inspections of the area the helicopter crash-landed before the operator embarked on the flight or by his security details who were supposed to approve the landing area for the helicopter.

He said: “Caverton is not on a contract with Pastor Osinbajo, but with All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign group that owns the office of Vice President today and still wants to retain the office. Pastor Osinbajo occupies that office on the platform of APC and not by himself. Let me say here that accident could still have happened whether or not the aircraft had been from the presidential fleet or not.

“What happened by whatever standard was negligence on the part of the people responsible for the movement of the number two man in the presidency. The area where the accident happened is not a regular landing area; neither was there any planned inspections of the area before the flight by the operator and those responsible for the number two man movement in the presidency who for his safety and security should approve the landing area.
“My take in all these is that these people whoever they are or were, are culpable and that includes the operator and the crew. I am not talking of the airworthiness of the aircraft here. Let the truth be said; they are all negligent.”

Ojikutu further queried the statement attributed to the operator, which claimed “unusual weather conditions” for the incident, asking when the operator noticed the bad weather.

“Well unusual wind condition was the excuse given by Caverton. So, when did they notice that unusual wind? Was fuel jettisoned? If not, what happened to the remaining fuel? Why were they not eager to clear the vicinity of the crash to mitigate any explosion?” he queried.

Ojikutu also asked for the altitude of the landing area, temperature and pressure at the time of landing the aircraft.

Also, Ohunayo lamented that crew; other passengers and onlookers were too close to the helicopter immediately it crashed in Kabba, Kogi State.

He emphasised that there was no urgency to flee the scene in case of fire outbreak, stressing that it was the responsibility of the crew to ensure everyone moved as far as possible from the aircraft, which he said did not happen in the case of the crash.

“I suspect fuel was jettisoned because there was no rush by anybody to leave the aircraft vicinity even the passengers were so relaxed,” he said.

Ahmadu, said that investigation by AIB would reveal the causes; immediate and remote of the crash, warning against speculations on the crash.

Also, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) raised the alarm over the poor security management around Osinbajo.

ART pointed out that the crashed revealed that the Vice President had a porous security arrangement.

ART insisted that it was deeply worried about the preparation made for the landing of the helicopter in that area and the crowd that surged towards the crashed equipment.

It said that if the crash had resulted into fire incident, more casualties would have been recorded; stressing the security was not well managed.

ART also raised concern over the usage of a foreign pilot to fly Osinbajo, declaring that it was a slap on the huge human resource of pilots Nigeria has in abundance.

But the presidency has denied that the pilot was a foreigner, saying they were Nigerians.

“Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) joins other Nigerians in thanking God for sparing the lives of the Vice President and members of his team on board the Agusta AW139 with registration number: 5N-CML and serial number: 31389 owned and operated by Caverton Helicopters, which crash landed in Kabba, Kogi State with twelve passengers on board, our Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo inclusive.

“While waiting for the AIB report of the accident, we are disturbed about the preparation made for the landing of the helicopter in that area and the crowd that surged towards the helicopter after the crash, if there had been fire, we would have experienced some casualties.

“We are deeply concerned about the management of security of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is embarrassing to see the Vice President of Nigeria being flown by a foreign pilot whether contracted or chartered in a Nigerian Police helicopter as noticed in a previous flight during this campaign season.” Independent

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