By DAYO JOHNSON
Akure — THE Ondo State Government, yesterday, clarified that it did not hire the aircraft of Associated Airline, which crashed last Thursday in Lagos, while conveying the body of former Governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, to Akure for the commencement of the burial rites.
The state government made the clarification on a day Chief Olu Falae, whose first son, Deji, was one of the 15 persons who died in the crash, said he has submitted to the will of God who cannot be questioned.
Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade in a statement in Akure, said the clarification would not have been necessary at the time the state and families were still mourning those who lost their lives in the crash, but for inaccurate media reports.
The statement reads: ”It explained that its determination to give the former Governor a befitting state burial made it set up a burial committee, which met regularly with the family of the deceased to arrive at a burial programme agreeable to the family.
“At one of the meetings, the statement said, the issue of the transportation of the body from Lagos to Akure was discussed.
“The committee deferred to the family’s insistence that the body be moved to Akure by air.
“The family thereafter introduced Mr. Tunji Okusanya (now deceased) of MIC Funerals as the official undertaker, who would make necessary arrangements regarding the movement of the body and the funeral.”
“Thereafter”, the statement further explained, the MIC boss forwarded the names of various airlines through an e-mail message to the Committee, namely, Aero Contractor; OAS Helicopters; Chachangi; Arik; Dana; and IRS as the Airline operators that have been contacted.
“It was indicated in his message that IRS was not available for conveying human remains; Dana aircraft had gone for maintenance; and Arik does not fly the Akure route.
“He, therefore, suggested Chachangi as “the best offer.”
The government further indicated that “it was neither the wish nor the prerogative of government to indicate any preference for a particular airline.
“The interface with MIC at the instance of the family, was necessary for facilitation of payment,” insisting that, “at no time was Associated Airline mentioned.
The statement emphasised that “this is definitely not the time for this as we are still mourning, adding that, ït is pathetic losing any soul in the course of paying homage to our former Governor, particularly government officials and other bread winners of their families, including the Managing Director of MIC, his son, and other workers of his company.
“The government thanked the Federal Government for ordering a thorough investigation into the crash in order to prevent recurrence of such tragedies, imploring the team of investigators to leave no stone unturned in the course of their investigation.
Further, the government said it “wishes to place on record its appreciation of the active and timely involvement of the Lagos State Government through its emergency agency as well as federal emergency agencies.
“We thank the management and staff of the Lagos State Teaching Hospital LASUTH, and other medical facilities who came to the rescue of the survivors.”
The state government also “sincerely thanked those who have shared in our pain by identifying with us at this time.
“We implore you to pray for the repose of those who lost their lives in the ill-fated crash and also continue to pray for all the bereaved families.”
Meanwhile, Chief Olu Falae, yesterday, summed up the event of his son’s death last week by saying he has submitted to the will of God who cannot be questioned.
The former Secretary to the Federal Government said this in Akure when leaders of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere paid him a condolence visit over the death of Deji, his son.
Deji, who until his death in the plane crash that was conveying the remains of former Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu to Akure from Lagos was the state Culture and Tourism Commissioner.
Chief Falae said: My wife and I have surrendered to the will of God who cannot be questioned.
“We pray that in due time the pain will go down, but it will definitely not disappear
“We will not because of this unfortunate incident renege in our service to this country, our church or any other place where our services would be needed.
“I as a person cannot but continue to serve; I have made up my mind to be of service to humanity no matter what comes my way.”
He said that few days ago he could not utter a word because of the tragic incident, but that “today, I can stand up on my feet to address you leaders of Afenifere because the Holy Spirit has comforted me and my wife.”
Speaking about his son, Chief Falae said he was proud of him because all the family values instilled in him from his youth were exhibited going by the testimonies from the governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, his fellow commissioners and friends.
According to him, “Deji lived a fulfilled life. He was transparent and responsible. He distinguished himself in all areas.
“He augmented his salary to take care of his supporters. What he collected as Commissioner’s salary was not up to what he collected in his former place of work, so he augmented it to empower his numerous supporters.
“He was humble, honest, transparent and exhibited integrity. He did not build a house of his own but he helped most of his supporters to build their own houses.
Earlier, the leader of the Afenifere, Chief Olanihun Ajayi, extolled the virtues of Deji. “He was one of us and we looked forward to him as one of the Yoruba future leaders, but God knows best.
“We know and understand the impact and the pains his death has caused the family, but we will urge you to remain strong in the service of God and humanity,”Ajayi said.