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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2004 > Feb > Feb 12

Many Unanswered Questions About Nigerian Plane

From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul>
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2004 09:58:42 -0800
Fwd Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2004 07:35:11 -0500
Subject: Many Unanswered Questions About Nigerian Plane



Source: AllAfrica.Com

http://allafrica.com/stories/200402110201.html

The Many Unanswered Questions About Goshen Beach Plane Crash

February 10, 2004
Posted to the web February 11, 2004

Nigerians were Friday, January 30, 2004, jolted by reports of
another plane crash in Lagos, four years after the EAS crash
that killed former Sports Minister, Ishaya Mark Aku, and close
to a hundred others. The incident which had since generated so
much controversy in the nation's aviation circles was reported
to have happened at Goshen Beach at about 3:00pm that fateful
day.

News of the crash of the aircraft suspected to be a 20-seat
capacity Beach 1900 as described by eyewitnesses, first filtered
out of the radio wave, setting officials of parastatals in the
aviation ministry and aviation correspondents on their toes.
Earlier reports about the crash were sketchy, and efforts to get
details from air traffic controllers, who should know, and local
operators at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, yielded no
result as at 7:00pm that evening. However, officials of the
Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN); Nigerian Airspace
Management Agency (NAMA); Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority
(NCAA) and the Fire Service at the airport responded promptly to
the crash site with their ambulance vehicles for search and
rescue of the aircraft and its occupants.

Officials of South Africa-based Critical Rescue International
and Nigerian Red Cross were also on hand to assist in the
operation. But for some minutes of aerial hovering over the
purported crash spot by military helicopter, not much of search
and rescue operation was conducted on the day. The reason for
this is simply lack of search and rescue equipment. Therefore,
everyone who thronged the crash site waited patiently for some
four hours to see if the Beach waters could throw up any
evidence either in terms of aircraft parts or personal effects
of those on board.

But while the speculation game as to aircraft type and identity
of operator continued, experts in the industry wondered what
could have been responsible for such a crash, as the day's
weather was seen as one of the best for flight operation.
Because of the axis the crash purportedly happened, air traffic
controllers, pilots and other aviation experts were quick to
conclude that the ill-fated aircraft was on its way to Lagos
from the Niger Delta Zone, preferably Warri. Suspicion of
operator was then narrowed down only to companies operating the
Beach 1900 in the country, while contacts were being made to
Osubi Airstrip in Warri, Eket and Escravos by officials of NAMA
to ascertain if any aircraft took off from any of those bases
that had not arrived at its destination. This became necessary
because air traffic controllers (ATC) had confirmed that they
had no dossiers of the aircraft, departure and arrival points in
their records. That Friday ended with no meaningful search and
rescue operation.

The environmental sanitation exercise of the following day did
not dampen the anxiety of aviation parastatal officials and
other members of the public who, Vanguard learnt, got to the
purported crash site before the exercise started at 7:00am. It
is necessary to state that much of what transpired this day was
more of keeping vigil at the Beach front for clues than actual
search and rescue. The only sign of activity in the Beach waters
this Saturday morning was the effort of a private search and
rescue outfit, Critical Response International (CRI), which boat
hovered around suspected crash spot in search of clues about the
crash. This went on for hours, as officials of aviation
parastatals at the Beach stood helpless, relying on information
brought to the shore by the 5-man search team.

At about 11:30am, the team, having almost given up on further
search, came with the information that it had found traces of
aviation oil, which they tried ceaselessly to track the exact
spot of the crash, but to no avail. Their frustration became
noticeable when at about 1:30pm, the officials mainly from FAAN,
the NCAA and NAMA had consultations on how to reach the aviation
minister in Abuja to liaise with the Naval High Command to
authorise movement of their equipment to the crash site,
especially with insistence from construction workers at Goshen
Beach Estate and CRI that an aircraft came down into the beach.
Before the close of the day, the aviation ministry in Abuja had
issued a statement, saying no plane crashed into Goshen Beach.
The statement signed by the chief press secretary to the
minister, Mrs. Ngozi Okwuogu, stated inter alia: "Information of
the reported aircraft was said to have been triggered by an SOS
message received from Econet message received from Econet Crisis
Management Centre, indicating that an aircraft crashed around
Goshen Estate, near Maroko.

"Immediately, all the relevant agencies: The Nigerian Civil
Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency
(NAMA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the
Accident Investigation Prevention Bureau (AIPB) of the ministry
were on the spot of the reported scene to ascertain the truth of
the matter before announcing same to the public.

"National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Rescue Co-
ordination Centre was immediately activated and series of checks
with an Air Traffic Control (ATC) unit at both Murtala Mohammed
Airport (MMA) and all other airports in the South Eastern sector
of the country did not reveal any missing aircraft."

The statement added that checks with Accra, Cotonou, Douala and
Malabo also did not reveal any information as to any missing
aircraft, even as it stated that the terminal approach radar,
communication and navigational facilities at the Murtala
Mohammed Airport (MMA) were all serviceable and in use at the
material time. Suffice to say that the Saturday ended without
any meaningful search and rescue operation because of lack of
equipment. It is necessary to state that the government closed
further search and rescue operation that Saturday.

From Sunday, the Goshen Beach became the isolated terrain that
it is. When Vanguard called there Sunday, the beach bore traces
of inactivity, as no one was found on ground. Stakeholders in
the aviation ministry were a bit surprised that the ministry's
position that there was no plane crash was hasty, especially as
twenty-four hours were not enough to conduct thorough search and
rescue operation to foreclose any further operation as indicated
by the minister, Mallam Isa Yuguda, at a press conference called
in Lagos to put the lid on further search and rescue operation.

Observers contend that even if no aircraft actually crashed into
the beach, the federal government needed to convince Nigerians
that nothing of such happened, and that the only way to do this
was to carry out thorough search and rescue. In this line of
thought is safety watchdog, the Nigerian Aviation Safety
Initiative (NASI) which, in a statement, warned government
against foreclosing and treating as a non-issue the reported
sighting of the crash of an unidentified flying object (UFO) at
the beach. " We view as premature any attempt to put the lid on
the search at this time, especially against the categorical
statement of Jenin Bowen, a member of the search team from
Critical Response International who insists after preliminary
search that there is an aircraft in the waters. Indeed, unless
the sighting can be rationally explained or the state of mind of
the eyewitnesses called, NASI believes that the government has a
responsibility in ensuring that the mystery surrounding the
crashed UFO is unraveled.

The fact that no aircraft is missing even makes it more
demanding for government to resolve the mystery, certainly it
should be viewed from the angle of national security," the group
said in the statement signed by Capt. Jerry Agbeyegbe, its
Executive Secretary and founder. As posed by NASI and other
aviation watchers, where did the aircraft depart from? Who is
the operator and who were the occupants? What was its mission?
Why was there no flight plan filed as required by aviation
regulations?

These are questions begging for answers from the nation's
aviation authorities and security agencies, as what transpired
on the fateful Friday, though controversial, bothers more on
national security. However, Mallam Yuguda, while wishing away
the crash of any aircraft, had told newsmen at the briefing that
what was mistaken for an aircraft by the construction workers
who claimed to have seen the plane come down were the fragments
of illegal oil barges blown to pieces by men of the Nigerian
Navy same day within the same environment. But watchers of the
aviation sector argued that even if that was what transpired,
the ministry ought to have worked stridently to retrieved such
fragments from the ocean bed to convince the people that there
was no crash of any sort.

They also picked holes in the ministry's argument that contact
with countries within the West African sub-region did not lose
any aircraft days after the purported crash, saying the aircraft
could have been one on illegal mission, stressing that the
owners could never have owned up that their plane was missing.
It was learnt that because of the epileptic nature of the radar
at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in terms of performance, there
had been cases of aircraft straying illegally into the nation's
airspace without being picked by the radar.

It would seem that aviation parastatal officials who claimed to
have conducted search and rescue operation, told the minister
only what they wanted him to know, especially considering the
haste with which he dismissed the crash story as a hoax. The
unease some of the officials felt at every probing question
asked the minister and efforts made to check reporters from
asking more than five questions at that briefing was a pointer
to this direction.

Consequently, so many questions were left unanswered about the
purported crash story. Even before coming to Lagos, Yuguda was
far away in Abuja giving instructions for issuance of a
statement denouncing the story, while nothing in terms of actual
search and rescue operation was going on. Up till the time of
briefing the press on the matter last Wednesday, the minister
was yet to visit the site of the purported plane crash.

He dashed out of Lagos in the same express manner he dashed in.
However, fielding questions from journalists at the briefing,
Mallam Yuguda, who had within twenty-four hours after the
purported crash authorised a statement dismissing the crash,
left room for possibilities of the presence of an aircraft under
the sea bed when he said the federal government had not
foreclosed investigation into the matter.

On claims that traces of aviation oil was found in the Beach
waters, close to the point the aircraft purportedly plunged, the
minister did not explain what steps relevant agencies in the
ministry had taken to ascertain the genuineness of that claim,
neither was he categorical about the fact that the oil
reportedly found by CRI search team was from the fragments of
the illegal oil barge blown by the Navy near the site of the
crash.

"For the sake of convincing Nigerians that there was no crash,
the minister ought to ensure that the fragment of the illegal
barge he claimed to have been mistaken for an aircraft was
brought out of the sea bed at the spot the plane reportedly
crashed, which I understand eyewitnesses have been able to
identify," observed an aviation expert who sought anonymity.

The displeasure of the senate over the manner search and rescue
was carried out by the relevant government agencies further
raised questions about the exercise, as that currently remains
the lacuna as to whether there was a crash of an air plane or
not. It also further called to question Nigeria's emergency
response capabilities. Such capabilities were lacking in the ADC
crash of 1996 in Lagos; EAS crash of 2001 in Kano, and have
again been displayed in the case of the Goshen Beach crash
incident, which yet remains a mystery because of shoddy search
and rescue operation.






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