One year after the crash of the Nigerian Air Force Beechcraft B300 King Air 350i, the cause of the incident remains unknown.
The ill-fated aircraft killed 11 military officers onboard, including then Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, on May 21, 2021.
The aircraft crashed near the Kaduna International Airport while the military officers were on their way to the passing out parade of regular recruits slated for the following day.
The incident happened only 115 days after Attahiru assumed office as the Chief of Army Staff, following his appointment by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on January 26 alongside the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor; Chief of Naval Staff, Gambo Awwal, and Chief of Air Staff, Isiaka Amao.
The Air Force Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, in a terse statement said, “An air crash involving a @NigAirForce aircraft occurred this evening near the Kaduna International Airport. The immediate cause of the crash is still being ascertained. More details to follow soon.”
The Air Force subsequently mandated the Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigeria to lead the investigation into the crash.
Three months after the crash, the AIB submitted the preliminary report to the Chief of Air Staff, Oladayo Amao, at the NAF Headquarters, Abuja.
A joint statement by Gabkwet and the General Manager, Public Affairs, AIB, Tunji Oketunbi, stated that the preliminary report contained a total of 27 initial findings and eight safety recommendations for immediate implementation. That was all that was heard of the crash.
Preliminary reports, according to Oketunbi, are not the final reports.
“They only contain details of the initial facts, discussions and findings surrounding the occurrences, which include information gathered from witness statements, flight recorders, Health and Usage Monitoring System Data, Flight Data Monitoring data, and preliminary inspection of the accident sites and the wreckages,” he said.
On April 26, the AIB released preliminary reports on four air crashes but the one that claimed Attahiru’s life was excluded.
The reports released were those of the crashes involving a United Nigeria Airlines Limited aircraft on November 17, 2021; Max Air aircraft on November 22, 2021; Air Peace aircraft on November 22, 2021 and Nigeria Police aircraft on January 26, 2022.
When asked by our correspondent why the crash that killed Attahiru was excluded from the reports released by the AIB, its spokesman, Oketunbi, explained that only the military could make the report public.
Oketunbi said, “We have submitted the preliminary report to the Nigerian Air Force and we presented it openly to them, although the full report is not in the public domain. You know it is not a civil accident. It is only the military that can make it public or give us the go-ahead to do so. To make it public is not part of our agreement; they invited us to investigate, we have done it and handed it over to them.”
Asked when the full report would be concluded, he said, “The outcome of final report depends on NAF if they give us the necessary things we need.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the NAF spokesperson were futile.
Saturday PUNCH reports that the military has experienced five crashes in the last 15 months with the causes of the incidents not disclosed, but for the one in which bandits in Zamfara shot down an aircraft.
Soyinka, Bayero, others to honour late COAS Attahiru
Meanwhile, the General Ibrahim Attahiru Foundation will today hold a memorial in Attahiru’s honour, one year after his demise.
The memorial holding in Abuja is expected to the attended by Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka; the Emir of Bichi, Kano Emirate, Alhaji Nasir Ado Bayero; and environmentalist, Dr Newton Jibunoh, among other prominent citizens.
The Programme Coordinator, General Ibrahim Attahiru Foundation, Dr Titus Orngu, who disclosed this in a statement on Friday, said Soyinka will deliver a short tribute titled, “To All, Who Give Their All for All.”
“Apart from the launch of GIAF, there will be the premiere of Ibrahim Attahiru, a Soldier’s Soldier, a documentary on the life and times of the late Army chief, produced and directed by Adeola Osunkojo.
“The foundation will also present Attahiru’s posthumous biography, ‘The man, the soldier, the patriot, biography of Lt. Gen. Ibrahim,’ written by Niran Adedokun, at the event,” Orngu said.