It took the prompt intervention of the men of the Nigerian Air Force Base in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, to rescue the governor of Taraba State, Mr. Danbaba Suntai, and five of his aides that were involved in an air crash on Thursday night, LEADERSHIP SUNDAY can authoritatively reveal.
The executive secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Shadrack, told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY yesterday that when the agency was alerted to the accident before the personnel could locate the site of the accident, the governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, had mobilized officers of the Air Force base and soldiers to rescue the victims.
"Before we reached the location of the crash, the Air Force and soldiers had rescued the victims. We could not do anything because the place was cordoned off.
"The Air Force personnel came with a helicopter to the site of the crash and air lifted the governor and his aides to the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, where they were hospitalized.
"I cannot explain how that happened because a state governor was involved in the crash. It was purely a security matter," Mr. Shadrack further explained.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday in Abuja that when it was alerted to the missing aircraft, it was unable to do anything because it had no effective response agency in place in Adamawa State.
NEMA'S head of public relations, Yushau A. Shuaib, said that the only thing the agency could do under the circumstance was to mobilize other relevant response agencies for rescue. The other agencies NEMA said it alerted included the police, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
NEMA further explained that the agency has only six offices located in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
There were speculations yesterday that the crashed Cessna 208 was not equipped with the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) also known as the black box. They are the vital components that can aid investigation of the cause(s) of the accident.
FDR, also ADR or accident data recorder, is an electronic device employed to record any instructions sent to any electronic system on an aircraft. It is used to record specific aircraft performance parameters. Another kind of flight recorder is the CVR, which records conversation in the cockpit, radio communications between the crew and air traffic officials in the control tower at the airport.
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) said yesterday it was continuing with the investigation of the crash to determine whether the aircraft had an alternative to the black box that will assist in the investigation of the accident.
Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, spokesman of AIB, told our correspondent that "it is not mandatory for an aircraft of the size operated by the Taraba State government to be equipped with a black box device," adding that the last time he spoke with the organisation's investigator, they were trying to contact the maintenance engineers of the aircraft to ascertain the make-up of the aircraft and conduct a thorough investigation on the crash.
On how soon the preliminary investigation on the accident could be made public, Oketunbi said it was not possible to fix the time, even as he said the commissioner of AIB, Captain Mutktar Usman, is currently out of the country.
Suntai was yesterday flown to Germany for further treatment.
He left the National Hospital, Abuja, where he was rushed to on Friday from Yola, almost 24 hours after he was brought to the facility.
Suntai, who piloted the ill-fated Cessna 208, 5N-BMJ jet was swathed in bandages from head to toe when he was brought to the hospital on Friday.
One of the health officials at the German/Saudi section of the Yola Specialist Hospital, where the governor and five of his aides were rushed to after the air mishap, had told our correspondent on Friday that he had fracture on the right arm and cuts on the left side of his head.
He added that the governor lost a lot of blood from cuts in his body, leading to a placement count volume (PVC) of 18 as against 45, which is the average for adults, translating to 60 per cent blood count loss. He was consequently given blood transfusion by the Yola hospital.
The evacuation of Suntai from the National Hospital to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport for the Germany-bound trip was not without drama.
A State House ambulance with registration number SH 557, which brought Governor Suntai on Friday to the hospital, came to the hospital with a heavily-armed police convoy and some Taraba State officials at 10:57am.
Some members of the National Assembly, who could not be immediately identified, were also on ground. Our reporter spoke with two of their aides, who confirmed the lawmakers' presence but they refused to give their names.
The chief medical director of the hospital, Prof. Shehu Bala, was on hand to personally attend to the governor at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at noon.
The entire area was cordoned off to human and vehicular movements.
Suntai, who unofficial sources claimed was in a coma, was driven out of the hospital at 1.57pm to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
An ambulance belonging to the National Hospital had made a decoy, as if it was taking the governor out of the hospital and blowing a siren endlessly. It was accompanied by police escort.
Fifteen minutes later, the ambulance came back without the escort. After about 10 minutes, another ambulance belonging to the hospital did the same, but without a siren.
In the governor's entourage were six cars, some of which had the registration numbers Abuja CZ 724 RBC; Abuja CU 184 RSH; FG AD82A01; NPF 45839 BMW and a Toyota Prado Jeep BS 677 RSH.
No one was allowed by the police officials to come near the ICU where the governor was kept. But, our reporter saw the reclining stretcher, which was used to bring the governor, wheeled into the ICU. The ambulance left the scene at 1.57pm.
I'm not Acting Governor - Taraba Deputy Gov.
Taraba State deputy governor Alhaji Garba Umar yesterday said he has not been sworn in as the acting governor of the state, but he is still the deputy governor despite the recent accident by his boss, Governor Suntai, in a plane clash in Yola.
Alhaji Garma Umar, who stated this at the Government House, Jalingo, while answering questions from journalists, said that Governor Suntai was responding to treatment at the National Hospital, Abuja.
When asked why he had not been sworn in to avoid a constitution crisis, the deputy governor said he could not be sworn in now that his boss was still alive.
He said, "I'm still the deputy governor of Taraba State, I' m not acting. I can't be sworn in as acting governor of Taraba State because my boss is still alive".