Tuesday, 25 September 2018


Before the Ejigbo plane crash of September 26, 1992, in which we lost what was described as a generation of articulate graduate military officers who were groomed for professional leadership positions in the Nigerian Army, unfortunately there had been so many other plane crashes in Nigeria before then. The first plane crash recorded was on April 10, 1948 in Kano, involving Air France Douglas DC-4 aircraft that crashed and killed the only person on board. On July 27th, 1951 a British -170 aircraft operated by West African Airways Corporation, crashed though no life was lost. In February, 1955 a WAAC plane from Enugu crashed in Calabar and 13 people died. On June 4, 1956 a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) four-engine Canadair C-4 Argonaut airliner G-ALHE crashed into a tree on departure from Kano Airport, three of the seven crew members and 29 of the 38 passengers were killed, and two crew and two passengers sustained serious injuries. On November 20, 1969, Nigeria Airways Flight 825, a Vickers VC-10 aircraft, from London enroute Lagos with intermediate stops in Rome and Kano crashed while approaching Lagos, killing all 87 people, 76 passengers and 11 crew, on board. On January 1973, 176 people died after a Boeing 707 chartered by Nigeria Airways to fly pilgrims back from Jeddah to Lagos crashed in Kano airport, two crew members and 23 occupants were rescued alive. Again on July 1991, 261 people died after a McDonnell-Douglas DC-8 aircraft flying hajj pilgrims to Sokoto on behalf of Nigeria Airways, crashed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Rescuers at the site of the plane crash, in fact on the crashed plane

Then came the September 26, 1992 plane crash, the aircraft a Hercules C-130 had graduates of 19, 20 and 21 Class of the Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna. The President Babaginda’s dream to professionalize and replace all senior military officers that he intended should be retired then.

Though historical records have it that the aircraft was very rugged, but it is important to note that for this particular plane, two of its four starters were bad from January until August 1992, they were only replaced in early September of that year to enable the plane airlift some relief materials to Liberia. On September 22, 1992, the plane was detailed to airlift the official cars of President Babangida to Lagos for the inspection of Naval vessels. The following day while at the Abuja International Airport, flight engineers spent over three hours to repair the propellers of the aircraft. After that it was also discovered that the aircraft had ascending problems.

On the return of the aircraft to Lagos, the Aircraft Maintainers Department (ACMD) personnel spent two days putting it in order and on September 25, the plane was handed over to the Air Transport Group for operations.

The aircraft’s initial task on that faithful day of the crash; September 26, 1992, was to lift the ‘President IBB Presidential Bodyguard’ to Abuja in the morning. At the airport, only 13 of the members were around for the journey. It was argued that it will amount to wastage of resources for the aircraft of a capacity of 110 people to carry only 13 passengers to Abuja. It was resolved then, that the aircraft be used to lift a deceased Air Force Warrant Officer, his family members and sympathizers to Ilorin in Kwara State. The aircraft left for Kwara State but as the aircraft attempted to land at Ilorin, it was reported that the booth swung open on its impact with the tarmac. After landing, the flight engineers went to work immediately to rectify the problem. From Ilorin, the aircraft departed for Lagos via Kainji and Port Harcourt, and got to Lagos at about 4:15 p.m as against when it was being expected at 11 a.m. as at the time of its arrival, some of the military personnel that were to board it to Kaduna had searched for alternative means, some traveled with Okada airline others requested for rebate tickets from the management of HARCO airline. HARCO Airline had just resumed normal flight about 2 weeks then, after they were banned by the Federal Civil Aviation Authority on April 7th. The remaining officers preferred that they travel as a team, so they stayed together and waited patiently for the return of the flight. 

A helicopter flying above the crashed aircraft a day after the crash 

When the aircraft eventually arrived Lagos at about 4.15pm, the inflight pilot from Port Harcourt was alleged to have warned the pilot for the Kaduna flight that the aircraft was in a terrible condition, the aircraft was taken for maintenance checkup and was satisfied air-worthy for the flight. Checked by who you may wish to ask, probably the Federal Civil Aviation Authority whose duties it was.
The Aircraft had 110 passengers’ capacity without luggage, that is if there are complete 110 passengers, there should be no luggage, but it was alleged that the aircraft carried about 167 passengers with their luggage. They were 15 persons in the cockpit that was meant for 11, including the pilot and his co-pilot. Some of the passengers in that aircraft were alleged to be standing while others ‘lapped’ themselves.

The aircraft was overloaded. 

Rescuers at the site of the plane crash, u can see the body of the plane
which means it was not bombed as speculated by some people 

The plane was reported to have left at about 5:27 p.m and under two minutes while the aircraft was at about 3,100-3,500 feet above sea level, one out of the four engines, in fact the one engine regarded as the very best, which ironically was the one recently repaired got packed up and immediately it was reported that the pilot sent in a distress message to the control tower “We are in trouble” The pilot made an impressive move to return to the airport but it was too late and by the time he sighted the Okota/Oke Afa canal, he headed for it, so that he can land with its belle on the water, but he missed it just by 100-150 meters and nose-dived into the swampy area of the lagoon, this was  in his effort to at least reduce the causality rate.

The wing of the crashed plane still intact, evidence that it was never blown in the sky 

The aircraft crashed at about 5. 30 pm, people resident around the Ejigbo area claimed the saw the plane coming very low, some also claimed the hey heard the sound of the crash but no one was able to reach the crash site that evening. At about 6.30 pm, a helicopter was sighted hovering around Ejigbo and environs, obviously trying to locate the site of the crash. I can state in good authority that the inability of the helicopter to locate the crash site that night was because there was no explosion as it was rumored, if there was an explosion, the fire from it would have been a signal for easy identification, by the helicopter occupants.

The aircraft had 112 senior Military/Naval/Air Force  Officers, 2 non-commissioned officers, 6 members of the directing staff of the Command and Staff College Jaji, 1 press photographer, 2 civilians from the Ministry of Defence, 5 Ghanaians, 1 Tanzanian, 1 Ugandan, among others.

Okada Airline that was said to have offered to airlift some of
the soldiers for half the cost  

1.      Lt. Col. A.K. Aladesuyi                                
2.      Major S.A Olisamaje  
3.      Major C.O. Mba                                             
4.      Major Boniface Anebi                                   
5.      Major G. Nzenwa                                          
6.      Major Gum Laa                                              
7.      Major C. Mungu                                            
8.      Major M.S. Ogbeha                           
9.      Major C.C. Nwambuowo                  
10.  Major A.A. Ogunaike                        
11.  Major D.O. Okoroji                           
12.  Major D.B Yard                                             
13.  Major Y. Aliyu                                                           
14.  Major I.A Aboyade                           
15.  Major G. Isamaila                                          
16.  Major A.C. Usibe                                           
17.  Major M.A. Pindar                                         
18.  Major Alusa                                                   
19.  Major T. Akpe                                                
20.  Major Obiora-Okeke                          
21.  Major M.S. Dambatta                        
22.  Major P. Abina                                               
23.  Major A.A. Itodo                                           
24.  Major O. Babalola                                          
25.  Major E.W.D. Ekanem                                  
26.  Major J. Ugo                                                  
27.  Major B.D. Botsha                                         
28.  Major M.S. Abubakar                        
29.  Major B.S Oyelola                                         
30.  Major D.O. Okoboh                           
31.  Major J.J Abahaba                                         
32.  Major T.O. Egharevba                                   
33.  Major I. Nyananyo                                         
34.  Major A.B. Femoweh                        
35.  Major O.S. Adewoyin                                   
36.  Major U.A.M. Bala                                        
37.  Major B.B. Daraiyo                           
38.  Major F.U. Bassey                                         
39.  Major V.S. Kure                                            
40.  Major Salisu Abubakar                      
41.  Major S. Bature                                              
42.  Major I.E. Muazu                                           
43.  Major P.I. Iyayi                                              
44.  Major A.J. Meaka                                          
45.  Major V.U. Mukoro                           
46.  Major O.S.  Omaga                
47.  Major K.T. Osula                               
48.  Major B. Kadiri                                                             
49.  Major M.F. Lezamoh                                     
50.  Major S.O. Ogbenro                                      
51.  Major A.N. Ebrinigg                                      
52.  Major Eze Ukeagha                                       
53.  Major J.A. Adudu                                                      
54.  Major E.O. Amaechi                                                     
55.  Major E.T. Arowojolu                                                   
56.  Major N.A Kajere                                                         
57.  Major E.C. Ogbenjuwa                                  
58.  Major J. Shija                                                             
59.  Major Samuel Omakwu                                             
60.  Major I.D. Nock                                                           
61.  Major S.S. Agada                                                         
62.  Major Taiwo Ogunjobi                                   
63.  Major A. Bala                                                            
64.  Major God Josiah                                                       
65.  Major M. Samuel                                                       
66.  Major S.D. Yawus                                                     
67.  Major A.H. Dombe                                        
68.  Major W. Adaa                                                          
69.  Major O.G. Akise                                                      
70.  Major M.D. Badamasi                                               
71.  Major E.T. Onive                                                       
72.  Major M.I. Ukeh                                                        
73.  Major I.K. Nwuke                                                     
74.  Major R.N. Nwankwo                                               
75.  Major F.A.I. Ogbebor                                    
76.  Major A.Y. Abbas                                                     
77.  Major R.A. Okeowo                                      
78.  Major Owolabi Adebanjo                              
79.  Major O.O. Olusanya                                     
80.  Lt. Commander P. Asoro                                                       
81.  Lt. Commander E.N. Okafor                                     
82.  Lt. Commander E.T. Gabriel                                     
83.  Lt. Commander S. Lasisi                                           
84.  Lt. Commander S.O. Odusola                                                  
85.  Lt. Commander E.C. Shijjir                                          
86.  Lt. Commander Fanka Bello                                        
87.  Lt. Commander K.O. Igwara                                       
88.  Lt. Commander J. Awoniyi                                          
89.  Lt. Commander P.N. Amangbo                                    
90.  Lt. Commander A.O. Ojekunle                                    
91.  Lt. Commander A.O.G. Aborowa     
92.  Lt. Commander E.O. Obeten                                       
93.  Lt. Commander O.O. Onobo                                        
94.  Lt. Commander J.O. Omokwu                                                 
95.  Lt. Commander A.A. Amaino                                                  
96.  Sq. Leader S.O. Akede                                                          
97.  Sq. Leader M.T. Njidah                                                         
98.  Sq. Leader Habu Saidu                                                          
99.  Sq. Leader John Tella                                                   
100.                      Sq. Leader A. Duson                                                   
101.                      Sq. Leader N.O. Alege                                                            
102.                      Sq. Leader R.O Yusuf                                                             
103.                      Sq. Leader S.O. Oyerinde                                         
104.                      Sq. Leader Ekong Okon Effiong                   
105.                      Sq. Leader T.A. Clement                                           
106.                      Sq. Leader K. Odubanjo                                            
107.                      Sq. Leader E.O. Ikwue                                                          
108.                      Sq. Leader M.M. Gumal                                            
109.                      Sq. Leader A.A. Ndube                                             
110.                      Sq. Leader E.J. Ekpong                                                         
111.                      Sq. Leader A.O. Atteh                                                                      
112.                      Sq. Leader J.M.K. Memsa                                                     
113.                      Mr. (civilian) O B. Oshodi                                                     
114.                      Mrs. (civilian) M.A. Abu                                                            
115.                      M.K. Okwabi  (from Ghana)
116.                      A.B. Ibrahim   (from Ghana)                                           
117.                      M.S. Ngonja    (from Tanzania)                       

The lagoon where the pilot planned the plane with its belly but missed by 100 feet

The next day, hundreds of civilians and military rescuers were at the scene of the crash. They scampered to the top of the ridge separating the canal from the swamp to get out some of the victims. The crash site was said to be littered with bags, shoes, dresses, notebooks, drugs from a first aid kits.

The aircraft crashed head long into the swamp, with one of the wings collapsed to the fuselage, which means a crane was needed to lift the wing off the fuselage but there was none available.

Standing right on the site of the plane crash, now with buildings and a Church on the spot of the crash  

Rescuers applied Vaseline ointment on the exposed parts of the body before venturing into the swamp. In all it took three days, because of inadequate facilities to get all the bodies out of the aircraft. The bodies of the victims were loaded into an army trucks. The following day after the crash at about 4:40pm on Saturday, September 27. Sani Abacha, Chief of Defence Staff and Minister of Defence.

probably a human bone dug out of the site by construction workers 

It was on Monday, September 28, that a hired private hack-saw was used to break into the aircraft, then on Tuesday, Julius Berger, a construction company, was contracted to help in lifting the wing off the fuselage where most of the dead were buried.

On September 29, President Ibrahim Babangida, visited the scene of the accident and announced the cancellation of all activities planned to mark Nigeria’s 32nd Independence anniversary as a mark of honour for the aircraft victim. 

Squadron Leader Michael Oladipupo Adefemi

In my efforts to get a balance story, I spoke to some people who directly or indirectly were part of the event of that day, for example, I spoke to Squadron Leader Michael Oladipupo Adefemi, the man whose name was listed among those that died in the plane crash but he is very much alive. “I was with the Air Force then and my family were in Kano, when I got to the airport that morning and was told that the Hercules was going to Kaduna with students of Jaji returning to their base, I decided to join them, while we waited for the plane to get ready for takeoff, I told my friend, Lt. Commander A.O.G. Aborowa to watch over my luggage, so I can see my mother whom I had not seen for a long time. So I took a taxi from the airport and instead of going home to see my mum, I went to see my brother and I gave him a message and gave him N200 to give my mum and a promise that I will visit her before the year ends. The same taxi that took me to see my brother, was waiting and drove me back to the airport, as we drove in I saw the plane taxing, I was worried that I had missed the flight and I was just wandering about my bag and how I will get to Kano, just then an officer called out and handed over my bag to me, he said my friend Aborowa gave him the bag to give me that they have left for Kaduna. I was still at the airport, about 10 minutes later when the airport tower announced that the plane that just left for Kaduna crashed, I was so shocked and confused” On the allegation that the crash must have been planned, he said: “No, nothing like that, it was an accident and we all knew it was an accident.”    

Mr Olajide Adedeji

I spoke to some Ejigbo residents who visited the crash site a day or two after the crash. One of them is Mr Olajide Adedeji, he had this to say: “I was one of the first set of people to get to the spot, efforts were made to use axes and other things to break the aircraft knowing fully well that there might be survivor’s because it flew at very low altitude before it finally fell nose-dived. When the so-called rescuers eventually broke the craft on the 3rd day, it was discovered that many soldiers/inmates actually died of suffocation! (at least from the way many of them opened all their shirt-buttons and hand-held hand-fan, they were using to fan themselves inside the plane. Air distance from airport to Ejigbo is less than 5 minutes, when the communication between the airport and pilot broke, they supposed to know that something happened! People said it was a planned government - action, No, No No! Was it the govt. that overloaded the aircraft? That pilot and crew was at fault, they were not cautioned at the airport simply because they were military-men. Very sad and painful memory. May the soul of all the victims rest in Peace”. 

Mr. Tayo Adelaja

Another person I spoke with is Mr. Tayo Adelaja who is a journalist, he said: “The plane crash that occurred in 1992 was a tragedy, I can't forget in a hurry. I was in a party on that fateful day, Saturday, September 26, 1992 when the earth shook as if there was a tremor. Fear gripped all of us at the party as there has been talk about the coming of the world to an end shortly before that day. The earth shaking incident occurred late in the evening when the party was in full swing. I and other friends left the party for our various home shortly after. As we are on our way, we saw helicopter hovering above and heading towards where the incident happened. It was the following day news spread like wild fire about the unfortunate crash of the students of the Senior Course 15 of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji and others about few streets away from the party venue. I went to the scene of the accident the following day, I met a crowd making efforts to rescue the victims, FRSC and some policemen. I couldn't bear the gory sight of the charred remain bodies of the victims of the aircraft brought out from the scene of the accident, so I left. Later, I learnt that the crash like other plane crashes in the country was due to our nonchalant and careless attitude to serious issue as the plane Hercules C-130 had faults a day before which was rectified but may not be totally fixed. Again, in my opinion the aircraft may have been overloaded which may have cause the tragedy.” 

Mrs. Ola Kasumu 

The bodies were buried in Abuja in a special Military arrangement, the site was constructed by Julius Berger, a construction company, since I was not able to go to Abuja to cover that part of the story, I interviewed Mrs. Ola Kasumu who was there on the day of the burial and she has this to say:

“I remember it like yesterday, it was in the year 1992, I was working in Abuja with the National Board for Community Banks (NBCB) when the Ejigbo plane crash happened. I got the information that the bodies of the military men who died in the crash were been flown to Abuja for burial and decided to attend the ceremony. I did not know any of them and just felt l should pay them my respect especially since I was in Abuja. I did not bargain for the emotional trauma that followed after the ceremony. I left work early with some of my colleagues who I had convinced to go because of mobility. The site prepared for the burial was in the outskirt of the town. It was a place after the airport but close to one big roundabout before Abuja. There was a massive turnout of people in spite of the fact that it was way out of town between Gwagwalada and Abuja. The bodies were brought in very late due to some delays. Trucks after trucks drove into the site. There was so much heart wrenching wailing all around me. People and l believe relatives and close friends were rolling on the ground. It took me months to stop having nightmares of the wailing. It was as if there was an unwritten agreement that everyone should wear black attires because it was a sea of blackness everywhere. The wives and relatives all took position by the coffins as the coffins were labeled. I can't remember if I saw kids. But I have never seen such a large number of very young beautiful and elegant widows. Most of them could not weep and were looking blank. Most of them wore long black kaftans. Quite a large number of the widows fainted and had to be revived and a lot of people in the crowd also fainted. I remember that some of the military officers who conducted the ceremony lost control of themselves at some point. There was so much anger and sorrow all around me. Some of the conversations I heard were that President Babangida set them up to wipe out a generation of military men that can grow to oppose him. From conversations around me I also heard that this group that died were the prime and creme de la creme of the military younger generation. The sight of the array of so many young women widowed at their tender age humbled me and the memory still gives me goose pimples even as I talk to you. I took so many lessons away from that place and am using part of it to counsel young couples which is that immediately you start having a family you must always put your house in order no matter how young you are. I followed up on the news of some of the widows after the burial for some years before l lost track, and read about how the widows and their young children were abandoned. Another lesson l took away from that place that I have been using to counsel is that no matter how rich or comfortable the couples are the woman must be empowered. She must have a source of income that is primarily her own. I learnt for myself that l should be ready at all times.” 

Mr Ebenezer Adeloye

Mr Ebenezer Adeloye gave his account thus: “It was the evening of September 26, 1992, I just returned from Ijebu Ode, where I have just gotten a job. Around 5.30 pm I was sitting with a friend at the junction of Mohammed Akije Street by Ifoshi. The plazas that now blocking the view of people from seeing as far as Jakande Estate were not there then. We sat outside, talking about my new job and suddenly I saw a reflection of light and  immediately, I called the attention of the friend that we were sitting together that it was like a huge metallic object has just dropped down at a distance away and that I was suspecting that it might be a plane crash, he asked how did I know and l replied that I just felt like that. We now said that if it was a plane crash that there might be a search and rescue team that might come for it. Because we were inquisitive, we decided to go as far as the back of a cosmetic company called Kessingsheen on the way to Jakande Estate. As at that time immediately after the company Jakande Estate can be seen clearly as there were no buildings there except for some grassland. We entered the grassland to look around but we could not see anything, a little later a helicopter came and landed close to us.

Three gentlemen alighted, looked around with the sense of urgency, as they were still searching I told my friend, that they may be the search and rescue for the plane. After a while when they could not find anything and it was getting dark they boarded their helicopter took off and returned the way they came and we returned home. The following morning which was Sunday, news began to filter out that there was a plane crash somewhere between Jakande Estate and Isheri Osun. To confirm my suspicion of a day before I took it upon myself to go down there through a bush path we used to follow then to Isheri Osun. Along this bush path there were streams, so many churches used to visit there for water baptism. Getting there, there were many curiously looking crowd, I was able to get close enough to where I was able to see the tail of the plane, it was a big one. Some more daring fellows got to the plane but for me the fear of explosion from the aircraft fuel kept me a bay. Many wanted to rescue but lack the necessary tools for such job and some were there  for whatever they can vandalized. What was happening in the plane was not known to us. After a while, different security men arrived and we were chased to some distance away from the plane and the place was barricaded. Later that day, a construction company was invited in with their equipment and the company started taking the plane apart. By this time it will be more than sixteen hours after the crash. After sometime the medics and Red Cross started bringing out corpses of the occupants of the plane. They were young army officers.

At this point, tears was running down my cheeks and when l could not stand it anymore I left and was very said for such a waste of lives of such young officers.”

General Ibrahim Babangida, then Head of State as he salutes the nation 

For those who went to town that the President then had a hand in the killing, I have repeatedly asked myself why will Babangida kill the officers, he trained? Today I am throwing the question out that we should ask those that have spread the rumor, why will IBB do such a thing. Take note that the man IBB had enough power to sack all of the officers from the Army if he did not like them. He also had enough power to retire all of them even at their age. He had the power to dispatch them to neighboring countries to go and fight wars. He had the power not to appoint them into any political positions. He had enough power to even sit tight on their promotions.

A closer look at the photos of the plane after the crash debunks the rumour that the plane was blown midair, it was never true, it crash landed as u can see in the photos

After the 1992 plane crash, there have been several other crashes for example on November 1996, 144 people died after a Boeing 727 operated by ADC airline en route from Port Harcourt to Lagos crashed in Ejirin, near Lagos, killing all its occupants. On May 2002, 72 people died after a BAC One-Eleven jet operated EAS, on a flight from Jos to Lagos via Kano, crashed shortly after takeoff from the Kano airport. On June 3, 2002 Dana Air Flight 992, a McDonnell Dougles MD-83 aircraft making a schedule commercial passenger flight from Abuja to Lagos crashed into a furniture work and printing press building in Iju-Ishaga in Lagos with 153 passengers and ten more on ground dead. On October 22, 2005 Bellview Airlines Flight 210, a Boeing 737-200 crashed killing all 117 people on board. It crashed after taking off from Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos enroute Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja. On December 2005, 108 people, mostly students of Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja, died after a McDonnell-Douglas operated by Sossoliso Airlines crashed while landing at the Port Harcourt airport. Two occupants were rescued alive. On October 29, 2006, an Aviation Development Company (ADC) Airline twin-engine MD-83 registered in Nigeria as 5N-RAM. Flight53, crashed with 104 passenger on board. Then on June 2012, 153 persons, 146 passengers and 7 crew died after a Dana plane McDonnell Douglas MD-83 crashed.

May God continue to protect us and may the soul of all departed continue to rest in peace as we remember them today. 

Dr. Raphael James is an Investigative journalist and an Adventure, Biographer, Author and Humanist 
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