A Nigerian Air Force ATR 42 aircraft heading for Owerri, Imo State, to aid military operations in the South-East region, crash-landed in Akure, the Ondo State capital, SaharaReporters has gathered.
SaharaReporters learnt from top NAF sources that the crash-landing of the ATR 42 occurred about two weeks ago – a week before the late Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, died in a similar NAF jet crash in Kaduna State.
It was gathered that military authorities covered up the incident and failed to make it public to avoid national embarrassment.
Top sources released the photograph of the ill-fated ATR 42 to SaharaReporters, adding that the aircraft was conveying some Special Forces personnel to Imo State, some of whom were reportedly injured after the crash.
But there was no casualty according to sources, which made it easier for the NAF authorities to be silent on the incident.
“It was an ATR 42 and we were going to Imo State. The aircraft crashed-landed the next day; the authorities are hiding the incident. The crash occurred in the morning. It was a solely military affair and they prevented anyone of us from taking photographs of the incident.
“It crash-landed at the Akure airport two weeks ago but they hid it. About 15 to 20 personnel were on board to the South-East.”
In about three months, the NAF jets have crashed in the North-Central, North-East, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and now South-West regions, raising fears about the maintenance culture of the military aircrafts.
SaharaReporters last Friday reported that the families of two Nigerian Air Force pilots – Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele – are still in the dark about their loved ones onboard an Alpha Jet which went missing since March 31.
The NAF has yet to provide an update on the location of the missing Alpha Jet NAF 475 which believably crashed on March 30 in Borno State as well as on the bodies of the late pilots, giving the families a great concern.
“The families are in distress. Nobody is talking about the two pilots on the Alpha Jet. The NAF’s investigation is taking forever. Now that another crash of bigger national importance has happened, the authorities may not even revert to the missing jet in Borno State, so as not to put up too many negativities into the public domain,” a source had said.
The fighter jet went missing on Wednesday, March 30, around 5pm, amidst fears that it might have been captured or shot down by the Boko Haram terrorists.
The Alpha Jet, a light attack jet and advanced jet trainer aircraft, has played a significant role in Nigeria’s counter-insurgency campaign in the North-East theatre of operation.
It was acquired by NAF in 2014 from the United States of America air force.
The last update the NAF gave was on April 2, when the NAF authorities said that intelligence gathered so far indicated that the jet might have crashed although it had yet to know the whereabouts of the jet or the two pilots on board.
Military sources had said at that time that the jet crashed in the Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State, although the NAF did not confirm the location.
It will be recalled that in February 2021, a NAF Beechcraft King Air 350i Surveillance Aircraft also crashed in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The outcome of NAF’s supposed investigations into the crash had yet to be made public.