Obasanjo calls for one minute silence at noon
He spoke in a nationwide broadcast on Tuesday as the police recanted their earlier claim that the black box of the ill-fated aircraft had been recovered.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, said he was misquoted.
In a measure reminiscent of the gesture in the United States to mark the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, and that in London on July 21, 2005 in remembrance of victims of July 7 serial bombings, Obasanjo said Nigerians should stop whatever they were doing at noon and observe the memorial silence.
He said, “As a mark of respect to the memory of all those who lost their lives on the night of Saturday to Sunday, the 22nd and 23rd of October, 2005, I implore all Nigerians, wherever they may be on Wednesday, 26 October, 2005, at midday, to stop whatever they may be doing wherever possible, maintain one-minute silence and pray for the repose of the souls of the departed, the comfort and repose of the souls of the departed.”
The President also said the Ogun State Government had been directed to organise an inter-faith memorial service on Thursday at the site of the crash.
He explained in the broadcast that Stella, who died in a Spanish hospital early on Sunday, was on holiday and without any trace of illness.
According to him, the harvest of deaths that has been recorded should not hinder ongoing efforts to make Nigeria great. “I believe this adversity should strengthen our resolve to remain committed, strong and unshaken in our efforts to make Nigeria a great country that God has created to actualize her potentials. We are already on the path to greatness through our comprehensive reform agenda; we must not waver or get diverted, distracted, confused or discouraged,” he said.
The President also said the nation would not be bogged down interminably with mourning.
Rather, he said that, “After the period of mourning, let us move on. My experience in life tells me that the departed would have wanted it so for Nigeria, a country that most of them died for.”
Besides, he said he had ordered a thorough investigation into the plane crash.
The police, in a statement, said Ehindero was misquoted as saying the black box had been found.
The statement, signed by Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Haz Iwendi, said, “To put the records straight and for avoidance of doubt, what the IGP told reporters was that the casing of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had been recovered and handed over to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s Accident Investigating Officer, Engineer Remi Faminu.
“Even when some reporters wanted a confirmation that the black box was recovered, the Commissioner of Police, Air wing, Mr. Cole, a pilot himself, who was with the IGP, took the pains to explain to the journalists the difference between the Flight Data Recorder and the Black Box.
“The IGP wishes to advise that while all efforts will be made to unravel the circumstances surrounding the ill-fated crash, nothing should be done by way of sensationalism to increase the agony of those who have lost their loved ones, please.”
Meanwhile, the Bellview Airline is facing a fresh challenge, even ahead of the investigation of the cause of the crash.
The British government on Tuesday dropped the airline from the list recommended for its citizens in Nigeria. Its decision was contained in a travel alert issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office late on Monday.
The travel alert read: “There are a number of domestic airlines, although there are concerns about their reliability. A Boeing 737 operated by Bellview Airlines crashed en route from Lagos to Abuja on October 22, 2005, killing all 117 passengers and crew. The cause of the crash is not yet known.
“Prior to that crash, where possible, British government staff based in Nigeria used Virgin Nigeria, Bellview and Albarka, which are accredited by IATA, and Aero Contractors which has a track record of use by international oil companies.
“Following the crash, guidance to British government staff has been revised to recommend use of Virgin Nigeria and Aero Contractors, wherever possible, though other domestic airlines are used as and when necessary.”
The British High Commission’s Political and Press Officer, Mr. Gaeme Bannatyne, told our correspondent that, “Although the passenger manifest suggests the UK citizens were on board legally, we cannot confirm anything until we receive definite proof of death.”
A four-man-delegation from Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrived at Lissa village, where crashed Bellview Flight 210 crashed.
According to agency reports, the FBI agents arrived at the scene on Monday following a request by the Federal Government to help unravel the mystery surrounding the crash of the aircraft.
The United States also confirmed that its Chief of Defence Cooperation at the US Embassy, Abuja, Major Joseph Haydon, was among 117 persons killed in the Bellview crash.
According to the US Embassy Information Officer, Dr. Rudolph Stewart, at a press briefing in Lagos on Tuesday, Haydon had worked in Nigeria for a couple of years.
Stewart said that the US was always ready to offer assistance to Nigeria in every aspect, adding that this would not be an exception.
“Bellview has a good record of safety. It is unfortunate this has happened, but we will review with the Nigerian government the cause of this accident,” he said.
Also in Abuja, the Senate and House of Representatives initiated separate probes of the crash.
The Senate committee on Aviation and Special duties is to carry out the investigation while a special panel is to do so on behalf of the House.
The Senate Aviation Committee is to ascertain the cause of the delay in locating the site of the crash.
It has four weeks within which to conclude the assignment and submit a report to the whole house.
Rising from an emergency session on Tuesday, the Senate also resolved to send condolence letters to President Olusegun Obasanjo over the crash and the death of his wife, Stella.
The President of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani, described the of events as turning points for the transformation of the nation.
In the House of Representatives, the members blamed the airline operator, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and the National Emergency Management Agency for negligence of duty.
The House said, it " condemned the unprofessional manner the search and rescue operations were handled by aviation authorities and the poor management and dissemination of information to the public on the disaster."
The PUNCH, Wednesday, October 26, 2005