Remembering Nigeria's Hercules plane disaster


Eromosele Ebhomele

Twenty years after the Nigerian military plane, Hercules C-130, crashed in Ejigbo, a suburb of Lagos State , Southwest Nigeria , nothing has come out of the probe into the incident that took away the lives of the entire 166 occupants of the aircraft.

The only semblance of remembrance is the advertorial placed by the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji , Nigeria , on Wednesday, which announced an Islamic prayer on Friday 28 September and a Christian prayer on 30 September for the deceased.

Signed by Brigadier-General Tanko Gaiya, the advertorial called the victims of the crash, who were then students of the Senior Course 15, fallen heroes.

The list included 104 senior army officers, 17 Naval officers, 17 Airforce officers, eight foreign officers, 11 Nigerian Airforce crew and nine others.

According to the AFCSC, “these fallen heroes have been immortalised with a modern cenotaph constructed at the Senior Course Students’ Hostel.”

Apart from this, everyone else, including the government of the day, may not even recall the incident which has remained evergreen in the hearts of family members, wives and children of the victims. While the women have continued to cope with widowhood, the children have remained fatherless casting their burden upon their already challenged mothers.

But did these military officers—many of them in the ranks of Major in the Army, Lieutenant Commanders in the Navy and Squadron Leaders in the Airforce-die of man-made errors? Many Nigerians will answer in the affirmative with fingers pointing in one direction:the leadership of the country at that period.

Their journey to death actually began on 23 September, 1992 when they left Jaji in Kaduna for Lagos and were to return on Friday that week, but it was not possible.

That Friday, which was 25 September, the aircraft which had one of the best crew members at that period, had a fault that needed to be fixed. The ill-fated military aircraft with four engines flew the next day after it was allegedly fixed.

Three minutes after taking off from the Murtala Mohammed Airport , Ikeja, with three failed engines as some sources claimed, the last engine failed while the plane was trying to ascend.

The plane plunged into the swamp which flows through Ejigbo to Mile 2, FESTAC and Apapa. This was around 4.30 pm.

Though the controversy following the actual number of officers involved in the crash has not settled, the manner the Ibrahim Babangida administration handled the situation got many suspecting the government.

Apart from the fact that the government or military authority did not officially inform the victims’ family members about the incident, it took the military rescue team about 48 hours to respond, while men of the Federal Road Safety Commission, who were the first of government officials to get there, appeared 24 hours after the incident.

Only 27 bodies could be recovered that Sunday. The Fire Service joined on Tuesday, three days after the crash and by Wednesday, 56 bodies had been recovered.

The total number of bodies were finally recovered the following Sunday by the rescue team which relied majorly on cutlasses and axe until Julius Berger Plc came to their rescue. They were buried on 5 October, 1992.

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No panel of inquiry was set up to probe the incident. The government also did not make any effort to recover the black box which was flown out of the country for study.

It is also disheartening that 20 years on, the decoded voice in the black box recovered from the site has not been revealed thus fuelling speculations of the hand of the government of that period in the incident. And General Ibrahim Babangida only visited the site on Wednesday, four days after the crash.

General Sanni Abacha, who stood in for the government in a meeting with the families of the victims, had promised that the government would cater for them, but till date, this promise has not been fulfilled.

In 1994, it was learnt that a directive was issued from the office of the chief of defence staff that letters should be given to all the widows to their various state administrators for accommodation against the terms of the promise earlier made. Some administrators responded wile others simply backed away from their promises.

Today, many of the widows and their children still squat with family members.

This apart, the widows were also denied their husbands’ gratuities, the Peugeot cars given to military officers of the rank of Captain and above were denied some of those whose husbands were not privileged to receive them before the crash.

In frustration, the widows represented by Mrs. Hadiza Pindar, Doorshima Ada’a, Fianca Odache and Nwano Eze-Ukagha petitioned the Human Rights Violation Commission headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa for redress. Then the military authoritiy agreed to fulfil the promises made but gave no date for the beginning of implementation.

Till date, none of the agreement has been met since 19 September, 2001 when the agreement was reached between the family members and the military.
Though the list below is incomplete, it provides a reminder of some of the victims in the crash.
LIST A: ARMY:-Lt Colonels
1. S.A. Onipede N/2888
2. A.J. Ibiyeye N/33300
3. J.A. Agber N/2712
4. B.A. Ibanga N/3315
5. J.O. Okafor N/2803
6. G.O. Ikoli N/5402
7. S.K. Aladesuyi N/3259

LIST B: ARMY:- Majors

1. C.D. Nwambuowo N/5587
2. E. Ezenwa N/3039
3. M.H. Leramoh N/2889
4. S.O. Yawus N/5956
5. S.S. Agada N/5975
6. E.O. Amechi-Okoro N/5861
7. O.O. Mba N/5945
8. E.J. Onwe N/3196
9. S. Bature N/6085
10. T. Zubair N/5465
11. F.U. Bassey N/6018
12. O.G. Akise N/3207
13. J. Shija N/3217
14. A.B. Famowei N/5936
15. A.A. Itodo N/6043
16. J.O. Okobo N/6047
17. K.A. Opgwu N/6058
18. M.S. Dambata N/6063
19. P.S. Stephen N/3389
20. S.O. Amaga N/6095
21. C.U.M. La’ah N/6092
22. I.A. Abolade N/6102
23. W. Adaa N/6112
24. E.A. Ushibe N/6207
25. J. Ugo N/3356
26. S. Abubakar N/3459
27. G. Josiah N/4362
28. Y. Aliyu N/3471
29. G. Ismaila N/3474
30. M.I. Ukeh N/3191
31. S.A. Jibunoh N/6173
32. I.U. Odache N/3482
33. I.E. Mauzu N/6181
34. P.O. Bamidele N/6185
35. I.D. Nock N/6187
36. D.S. Oyelola N/6186
37. L. Nyanayo N/6192
38. N. Obie N/6195
39. R.N. Nwankwo N/6197
40. C.T. Akpe N/6208
41. R. Okeowo N/6291
42. R.A. Olufe N/6292
43. E. Egoro N/3423
44. A.G. Jegede N/3443
45. A.H. Dombe N/3477
46. P. Yaro N/3488
47. A.Y. Abbas N/4221
48. C.O. Egharevba N/4222
49. F. Ogbebor N/5460
50. B.A. Anebi N/5461
51. G.O. Oyefi N/5467
52. I.K. Nwuke N/5470
53. V.S. Kure N/5483
54. J.A. Tokula N/5484
55. T. Abina N/5486
56. B. Kadiri N/5489
57. C. Mungu N/5502
58. A.N. Ebiringa N/5506
59. O.A. Ogunaike N/6032
60. B.B. Sadiq N/4028
61. S.O Gbenro N/4646
62. T.I. Adahada N/4747
63. C.E. Ogben N/5102
64. O. Babalola N/5115
65. E.W. Ekanem N/5474
66. C.T. Arowololu N/3216
67. M.S.Ogbeha
68. I.J.Raiya
69. D.O.Okoroji
70. M.A.Agoyi
71. V.U.Mukoro
72. A.E.Mshelia
73. J.A.Audu
74. S.A.Oisamoye
75. A. Bala
76. M.A.D.Badamasi
77. E. Ukagha
78. K.E.Osula
79. N.A.Kajero
80. B. Daranijo
81. M.O.Ajibola
82. U.A.M.Balami
83. S. Omakwu
84. A.O.Obiora
85. A.A.Kawonta
86. C. Otti
87. O.O.Olusanya
88. O.J.Mbaka
89. P. Iyayi
90. T.O.Ogunjobi
91. G.N.Nze
92. H. Onwuegbunam
93. M.A. Pindar
95. O. Adebayo
96. B.O. Potsha

1. M. Bahagoo

1. O.B. Oshoodi – MOD
2. M.A. Abu (Mrs) – MOD
3. A. Okpe – Reporter.

1. Wg. Comdr. J.P. Alabesunu
2. Wg. Comdr. A.S. Mamadi
3. Sgn. Ldr. J.A. Adeiza
4. Flt. Lt. S.O. Adamu
5. WO. M.J. Wakala
6. P.S. Tarfa Saidu
7. WO. M.J. Datong
8. Sgt. A. Soyemi
9. Sgn. Ldr. Okon Okon Effiong
10. ,, John Husainu Tela
11. ,, K. Odubanjo
12. ,, F.O. Akede
13. ,, Habu Saidu
14. A. Duson
15. T.A. Clement
16. R.O. Yusuf
17. S.O. Oyerinde
18. N.O. Alege
19. M.T. Njidda
20. J.K. Osho
21. E.O. Ikwue
22. M.M. Gumel
23. A.A. Ndule
24. E.J. Ekpong
25. A.O. Atteh
26. O.Jaja (VideoCameraman)

1. Lt. Cdr. E. Obelen
2. ,, K.A. Fauka Bello
3. ,, S.O. Odusola
4. ,, O. Shiejir
5. ,, E.J. Gabriel
6. ,, A.O. Ojekunle
7. ,, K.O. Igwara
8. ,, A.O.G. Aboruwa
9. ,, S. Lasisi
10. A.A. Amaino
11. E.N. Okafor
12. T. Awoniyi
13. P. Asoro
14. P.N. Amangbo
15. O.O. Onabolu
16. J.O. Omokhuale
17. C.O. Ochigbono

TOTAL: 146
** Note:: 5 additional Ghanaians, 1 Tanzanian, 1 Zimbabwean, and 1 Ugandan military officers were involved.

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