Plane Crashes, Corruption and the National Security of Nigeria

by Priye Torulagha

Due to their level of importance to the nation, each of the officers would have been transported to the Obudu Ranch in separate flights so as to ensure their safety and the national security of the nation. At most, not more than three senior military officers would have been allowed to fly in the same plane, considering the fact that a mishap can happen anytime. Thus, the army and airforce would have made every effort to transport the officers to their destination without putting all of them in one plane. Consequently, Gram Bolaji Osborne, a PDP’s presidential aspirant is right on target when he

“faulted the federal government over the recent air crash that claimed the lives of eight generals amongst others arguing that a policy preventing more than three commanding army officers from travelling in one aircraft should have been promulgated since the Ejigbo mishap many years ago” (This Day, September 29, 2006)

By failing to realize the danger of putting top leaders of the army in one plane, Nigeria lost tremendously. Even during actual combat, it is rare to have two or three top military generals killed in one encounter by an enemy force.Unfortunately, without any war, Nigeria assisted by default, the elimination of critical officers of the army, includingMaj. Gen.S.O. Otubu, the Chief of Policy and Plans, Maj. Gen. J.O. Agboola, the Military Secretary, Maj. Gen. S.M. Lemu, Chief of Army Administration, Maj. Gen. J.T.U. Ahmedu, the Head of the Department of Standards and Evaluation, Maj. Gen.A.N. Bamali, the General Officer Commanding the 2nd Division, Maj. Gen. J.O. Adesunloye, the Chief of Staff of 81 Division, Maj. Gen. P.M. Haruna, Maj. Gen. B. Daniya. Brig. Gen. Y.J. Braimah, and Brig. M.B. Bawa.Other military officers included Lt. Col. N.A. Mohammed, Wing Commander E.O. Adekunle (Ajani, Ajayi & Ighodaro, September 19, 2006). This means that the country has a severe national security problem.

As a result of the incredulous manner in which Nigeria sacrificed the officers through reckless disregard for the nation’s security, some Nigerians are theorizing that the crash was intentionally staged to reduce the number of potential troublemakers who might plan or stage a military coup or interfere with the coming elections in 2007. One could also recall that some Nigerians had theorized that the officers who died in the Ejigbo plane crash during Gen. Babangida’s era were condemned to their fate by military leaders in an attempt to reduce the number of potential ‘coup plotters’ or ‘troublemakers in the army.’PDP presidential aspirant, Mr. Osborne, alluded to this allegation when he said:

“allegation that Babangida was behind the accident of Ejibgo many years back should be fully investigated and if it is true such people and their surrogates should not be trusted with leadership” (ThisDay, September 29, 2006).

Although, there seems to be no iota of factual evidence to support the conspiratorial theory, yet, the pattern of plane crashes and the tendency to load a single plane with so many military officers seem to reinforce the perspective that such plane crashes are indeed tactical efforts by the government to eliminate potential ‘troublemakers.’

An interesting thing about military plane crashes in Nigeria is that the crashes tend to involve mostly groups of army officers. Additionally, the crashes tend to involve groups of officers who are being transported to some destination, either for training or a conference. This raises the conspiratorial meter to a very high level since most coups in the country have been staged by army officers.Moreover, as the country is badly governed, the danger of an unpredictable upheaval emanating from the armed forces, particularly the army, can be very worrisome to political leaders, hence, the believability of the conspiratorial theory.

Nigeria has many governmental organizations geared toward the gathering of intelligence. They include the State Security Service, the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the Criminal Investigation Department, and others. In addition, each armed and police service also has a unit designed to provide intelligence and security. It is mind boggling that none of these intelligence and security services warned or advised against putting the country’s top army leaders in one plane, especially, considering the fact that over 170 military officers had died in a plane crash in 1992.

Another possible reason for putting so many high ranking army officers in one plane could be that both the airforce and the army have a very limited number of aircrafts (planes and helicopters), following systematic lack of investment in such equipments. It could also be that they have many aircrafts but most are not airworthy due to lack of maintenance, arising from the embezzlement of maintenance funds.

3. Frequent plane crashes in Nigeria is directly related to the high rate of corruption in the country.

The most plausible reason for frequent plane crashes, whether involving military or civilian, is corruption.Corruption comes through lack of regulation of the aviation industry, the purchasing of old planes that others have condemned to the junk yard, and pilfering of funds that would have been used to buy new planes and maintain them. In Nigeria, it appears that the primary motive for many people wanting to be in government is to acquire personal wealth through embezzlement of public funds. In order to accumulate wealth, anyone could be sacrificed if he or she stands in the way, including military generals. Similarly, illegal wealth accumulation entails not building or rehabilitating roads, hospitals, schools, airports, and buying used planes, buses, equipments, medicines etc. It also means not equipping the army, airforce, navy, and the police with up to date equipments and not paying service men and women with livable wages.

Thank goodness, the ongoing “if you Obasanjo me I go Abubakar you” fight involving the president and the vice president has revealed the inner workings of the present administration, in terms of the management of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF). As a result, Nigerians are being exposed to the irresponsible manner in which public funds are managed. While public funds are used irresponsibly to execute personal pet projects, government institutions and the state are starved of needed funds. The result is that the country is malnourished financially, economically, infrastructurally, socially, and spiritually. The army, airforce, navy, and the police are mirror images of their former selves.Nigeria’s airports are substandard by any modern standard of airport design and construction. The domestic airline industry is a dumping ground for reactivated old planes that the original owners had sent to the junk yard.Thus, flying in any plane, whether civilian or military in Nigeria, is a very risky proposition since one cannot be sure of its age.

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Anonymous October 12, 2006 - 3:09 am



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