By Kingsley Omonobi
Following last Tuesdayâ€™s Navy helicopter crash at Ogbodo Swamp, Isiokpo village in Rivers State, after a routine investigation of illegal bunkering activities by some economic saboteurs, the Nigerian Navy said, yesterday, that it suspected noÂ foul play. It added that a high-powered board of inquiry has been set up to investigate the cause of the crash.
â€œWe donâ€™t have any suspicion of foul play. A delegation led by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral I. I. Ibrahim, was at the scene of the crash, Wednesday. Since the commencement of the Federal Government Amnesty programme, no activity of militants have taken place in that area and it has no history of militancy, so there is no fear of foul play. It was purely an accident,â€ the Director of Naval Information, Commodore David Nabaida, said.
Addressing the media on steps taken so far on the crash, disclosed that the bodies of 3 late officers were yesterday laid to rest at the Port Harcourt Military Cemetery while that of the Seaman, would be taken to Jos for burial.
According to Commodore Nabaida, â€˜the high powered board of investigators comprises experts from the aviation industry, experienced people from the Nigerian airforce and representatives from the parent body or manufacturers of the Augusta aircraft, Westland of Italy.
He explained that on the fateful day of the crash, the aircraft went to investigate a case of illegal bunkering near Akaso area. After the air surveillance patrol, the aircraft went to Port Harcourt to refuel. It was on their way back that it crashed near the airport killing all the occupants.
Disclosing that the pilot and co-pilots were very experience pilots with about 1, 000 hours of air time, Nabaida said the particular helicopter, (one of six in Navy inventory) just came back having just underwent the 100 hours certification test adding that â€˜as a result of the agreement with Westland, we have an instructor pilot from the company with us and some technicians on standby who carry out routine checks before the aircraft are usedâ€™.
Emphasizing that the families of the deceased officers would be paid compensation in consonance with terms and conditions of service, Nabaida regretted that each of the pilots on whom a sum of over $3million was spent to train are gone not to talk about the aircraft.
He said this was the more reason why government should invest more funds in the Navy to ensure that more operational equipment are acquired for the Navy to do its work better.