December 10th 2015 was the tenth year anniversary of one of the most heart-rending air tragedies in Nigeria’s history. On that fateful day, one of the airlines in the country at that time, Sosoliso Airlines travelling from Abuja to Port Harcourt, crashed while attempting to land, claiming the lives of 109 passengers on board. Only two lucky passengers eventually survived after sustained medical attention.
What added to the pain and grief of that ugly event was that 60 students of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, including three children of the Port Harcourt-based Ilabor family that lost their lives in the crash.
In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo sent a representative, Captain Samuel Akindele, the Chief Executive of the College of Aviation Technology, to participate in a candle light procession organised in Port Harcourt by the bereaved families in honour of the students.
He consoled them and assured that “lessons have been learnt”, adding that the Federal Government is taking steps to ensure that such tragedies do not occur again in Nigeria.
The period between 2005 and 2006 was the darkest in our aviation history, as four air crashes involving ADC, Bellview and Sosoliso claimed about 400 lives.Unfortunately, no one was made to pay a price. The then Minister of Aviation, Professor Babalola Borishade, never even contemplated resigning. He was kept in office despite a public outcry until November 2006 because of his connections to the political authority of that time.
However, it is worthy of note that since then, strenuous efforts were made by the successive regimes to give the aviation sector massive facelifts, including the total remodelling of fourteen airports and the conferment of Category One certification by the United States Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA)in 2010, which enhanced the industry’s global recognition.
Meanwhile, the road to the achievement of Vice President Osinbajo’s “never again” safety level is still a distance away, as the same Port Harcourt Airport, which is still undergoing renovation, was rated as one of the “deadliest” airports in the world by a recent CNN news report.
It is heartwarming that part of the positive fallouts of that tragedy was the establishment of the Jesuit Memorial College in Port Harcourt, which brings its premium educational benefits to the doorsteps of the city and its environs.
We still hope that more will be done to immortalise the memories of these young tendrils whose promising future was wasted in one fell swoop. We pray for the repose of their gentle souls and urge their parents to endeavour to move on with their lives, as difficult as this must be. We must never again allow the industry to descend to the lows of 2005/2006