Abuja — The Nigerian Navy, yesterday, insisted that its helicopter that crashed last Saturday in Okoloba community in Bayelsa State, killing Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa and erstwhile National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi (Rtd) was certified to fly by a 'Certified Technical Support Engineer'. The Navy made the clarification on a day the investigation team set up by the Federal Government led by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba arrived Bayelsa State capital, Yenagoa to commence investigation.
Meanwhile, the 36 state governors, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors' Forum, NGF, yesterday resolved that they must be allowed to engage the services of a private consultant to carry out an investigation into the cause of the mishap that claimed one of them.
Chief of Training and Operations at Naval headquarters, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor who made the disclosure in Abuja said that contrary to insinuations that the Augusta 105 helicopter that crashed had engine problems, the helicopter was certified to fly by a 'Certified Technical Support Engineer'.
According to him, "the helicopter had her last scheduled routine maintenance concluded on November 19, 2012 by certified technical support engineer. When the aircraft crashed, it had more than 80 flight hours before the next scheduled routine maintenance".
However, he said the Nigerian Navy will not want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation.
Ogbor said: "Membership of the Navy board includes aircraft investigation specialists, Augusta Westland, manufacturers of the aircraft and other aviation regulatory agencies as provided for by extant regulations. It is expected that the board will come out with remote and immediate causes of the accident with far reaching recommendations that will forestall future occurrences.
"Nigerian Navy helicopters including the NN07 that crashed are properly maintained and serviced regularly in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications.
"In line with this, the Nigerian Navy conducts routine maintenance on helicopters in conjunction with the aircraft manufacturers, Augusta Westland. In order to ensure serviceability of helicopters, a certified technical support engineer from Augusta Westland is retained in Nigeria by the Navy at huge cost to support maintenance efforts.
"The engineer in collaboration with Nigerian navy aircraft engineers certify the air worthiness of the helicopters before any deployment".
Regarding experience of pilots, the CTOP said: "As at the time of the incident, the helicopter had flown 1, 704 flight hours. The Nigerian Navy pilots are very experienced. In fact, the Captain in Command had flown over 800 hours while the Co-pilot had flown over 300 hours.
"All our pilots are trained in the best aviation institutions all over the world. Additionally, spare parts for the helicopters are obtained from the manufacturers, Augusta Westland, and or its approved maintenance center worldwide" he said.
Disclosing that maintaining an air arm in the Nigerian Navy was not an aberration, Ogbor said: "It is pertinent to note that navies worldwide maintain air assets in support of their maritime operations. Such navies include the Royal Navy, Australian Navy, Malaysian Navy, South African Navy and Egyptian Navy to mention a few."
Govs seek services of private investigator
Meanwhile, worried by last Saturday's helicopter crash, the 36 states governors under the aegis, Nigeria Governors' Forum, NGF, yesterday resolved that they must be allowed to engage the services of a private consultant to carry out an investigation into the causes of the mishap.
Rising from an emergency meeting held at the Rivers State Governor's Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja yesterday, the governors also agreed that as a body, it would serve as an observer to the proposed investigation by President Goodluck Jonathan.
It will be recalled that the Saturday helicopter crash in Bayelsa State killed the governor of Kaduna state, Patrick Yakowa, former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Owoye Azazi, their security aides and the two pilots.
In a Communique signed by Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the governors also called for thorough investigation and openness into the crash.
According to the communique, "Forum further resolved to engage a consultant to participate in the investigation process or serve as an observer.
"Members support the directive of the President for a thorough investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the helicopter crash and calls for transparency and openness in the process."
It was gathered that immediately after the meeting, the governors headed straight to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to Kaduna to condole with the widow of Patrick Yakowa, Amina and the newly sworn in governor of the state, Ramalan Yelo and the people of the state.
Before the meeting, the governor of Niger state, Babangida Aliyu had lamented the deaths of prominent Nigerians in air crashes, just as he recalled the death of the former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Haruna John, who died in a similar helicopter crash in Jos.
Before the meeting, some of the governors who were seen discussing in groups about the ill fated helicopter, however questioned how the helicopter could have openly exploded mid air before reaching ground.
One of the governors from the north, said: " With what is happening, nobody is safe."
Governors of Imo, Anambra, Adamawa, Rivers, Abia, Ogun, Ondo, Kebbi, Yobe, Niger, Sokoto, Kogi, Edo, Plateau, and Gombe states. Nasarawa, Bauchi, Enugu were represented by their deputy governors.
Bayelsa State government on its part said it is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the investigation into the crash. Governor Seriake Dickson made this known yesterday while receiving the investigative team led by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, in Government House Yenagoa.
Describing the incident as a monumental tragedy, Dickson in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, reaffirmed his administration's commitment and support for the investigation.
Nigerians must remain united --Naval Chief
Earlier, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba had called on Nigerians to remain united in spite of the difficulties encountered as a result of the national loss.
According to him, despite all, we will continue to give thanks to God.
The CNS informed Governor Dickson that President Goodluck Jonathan has directed a detailed investigation of the helicopter crash, assuring that, all necessary steps would be taken to unravel the problems that led to the incident.
NBA calls for probe
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to order thorough investigation into the helicopter crash.
The body, in a statement issued by its national president, Chief Okey Wali, SAN, said there was need to probe the cause of that uncanny air mishap which also killed four other persons, "so as to avoid future occurrences of such ugly incident.
"The NBA calls on the federal Government to order thorough investigation into the helicopter crash to determine the causes so as to avoid future occurrences of such ugly incident
"Our faith in the Almighty cannot be tempted, we will remain faithful and continue to pray for the repose of their souls in the bossom of the Almighty, while praying for fortitude for their families, friends, states and our country to bear these irreparable losses. May the souls of those faithful departed rest in peace," read the statement.
Cross River Acting Gov reacts
The Acting Governor of Cross River State, Barr Efiok Cobham has commiserated with President Goodluck Jonathan and the people and governments of Kaduna and Bayelsa states on the death of Governor Patrick Yakowa and Gen. Owoye Azazi describing their manner of death as horrific and saddening.
We 'll get to the root of the crash --Defence Minister
Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, yesterday, declared that the Defence ministry will leave no stone unturned in getting at the root of the Navy helicopter crash last Saturday that claimed the lives of six people including Patrick Yakowa and General Owoye Azazi.
"The Ministry of Defence will leave no stone unturned to ascertain the cause of the unfortunate incident, and wishes to assure all Nigerians of the continued commitment and dedication of the Ministry of Defence towards service of the nation".
Patience Jonathan weeps on meeting Yakowa's widow
The First Lady, Dame Patence Jonathan could not restrain herself from weeping inconsolably on meeting Dame Amina Yakowa, the widow of late Governor Ibrahim Yakowa, at the Kaduna State Government House, yesterday
Jonathan's wife who led a delegation of about 18 governors' wives broke down in tears and wept loudly.
"I am sorry that I am crying", she said. "I cry because am a woman. I know what she's passing through. We came here to console her and the good people of Kaduna State.
"Yakowa was a peaceful man, a man who was everything- a strong, hard working man. My sister, my friend, we are sitting here in sorrow. I want you to know that you are the mother and father of your children now. We would continue holding you in prayers. "It is only God that can comfort because man cannot comfort you.
"May Almighty God comfort you."