The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Oladayo Amao, has recalled that the seven personnel of the Nigerian Air Force who died in a fatal aircraft crash on Sunday were a set of fine and well-trained officers in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions, operating in the North-East against the Boko Haram insurgents.
Amao said the personnel had also been involved for “days” in the search for the abducted school pupils in Kagara, Niger State, before the crash occurred on Sunday.
The air chief on Tuesday stated this at the NAF Headquarters, Abuja, when he received the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, who described the death of the NAF personnel as a great loss to the country.
According to a release by the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal Ibikunle Daramola, the air chief noted that it was a “sad Sunday for the entire NAF Family, which had lost a set of fine, well-trained, dedicated personnel, who in the course of conducting Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions, had operated in virtually all theatres, including the North-East, North-West as well as the North Central.”
“The CAS disclosed that the deceased personnel, who had been in Minna for days conducting ISR missions in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the students and staff abducted from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, had only stopped at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to refuel before embarking on the fateful return flight to Minna, when the unfortunate incident occurred.
“While describing the incident as one of the hazards of the military profession, AVM Amao lamented that the NAF would find it difficult to replace the personnel based on their training and experience acquired over the years. He said the Service was nevertheless consoled by the fact that the deceased personnel gave their utmost in service to the nation,” he stated.
The NAF Beechcraft KingAir B350i aircraft had crashed while returning to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, after reporting an engine failure en route to Minna.
Everyone on board died in the crash.
They were: Flight Lieutenant Haruna Gadzama, the Captain; Flight Lieutenant Henry Piyo, the Co-Pilot; Flying Officer Micheal Okpara, an Airborne Tactical Observation System Specialist; Warrant Officer Bassey Etim, ATOS Specialist; Flight Sergeant Olasunkanmi Olawunmi, ATOS Specialist; Sergeant Ugochukwu Oluka, ATOS Specialist; and Aircraftman Adewale Johnson (Onboard Technician).
The Chief of the Air Staff had ordered an “immediate investigation” into the incident, while several Nigerians, including President Muhammadu Buhari, mourned the loss of the personnel.