We have detected that the browser you are using is no longer supported. As a result, some content may not display correctly.
We suggest that you upgrade to the latest version of any of the following browsers:
Nigeria said yesterday it will "plug loopholes" in its airline
industry and ensure compliance with maintenance standards after an
air crash on Saturday that killed 117 people.
Nigeria's air industry has seen dramatic growth over the past 10
years but most of its fleet is second hand and at least 20 years
old. There have been several safety breaches recently, some
involving aircraft problems and others relating to potholed or
"I have directed the aviation ministry to ensure strict compliance
with maintenance and operational requirements and standards for all
aircraft in order to plug loopholes and ensure passenger security
and safety," President Olusegun Obasanjo said in a national
television and radio address.
Obasanjo said he had ordered a "full and fair investigation" into
the crash of the Boeing 737 shortly after take-off from Lagos on
Bellview Airlines said the 24-year-old plane had been given a clean
bill of health by safety inspectors in February. The Abuja-bound
flight took off when there was a heavy electrical storm in the area
John Obakpolor, a fellow of Britain's Royal Aeronautical Society
and retired Nigerian Air Force officer, said the evidence pointed
to a lightning strike as a possible cause.
The Boeing 737 had climbed to 1,200 feet and requested permission
to go to 13,000 feet when it suddenly lost contact with the control
tower three minutes after take-off, he said.
Contrary to a statement by a presidency source, Obakpolor said
there was no distress call. Nor is there any evidence that the
pilot had time to follow emergency procedures, such as ditching
fuel at sea or returning to base.
"Something suddenly happened, like an explosion. If it was hit by
lightning -- and there was lightning activity -- the effect at that
level is very dangerous."
He said such an electric spark would knock out communications and
control, leaving the plane rudderless, but would not stop the
"Judging by the size of the crater, the aircraft flew into the
ground with the power on, so the question of maintenance does not
come into it at all."
Nigeria's aircraft are maintained abroad and only basic maintenance
is conducted in the country, he added.
The industry is dominated by small Nigerian companies, some of
which are owned by politicians, and most of the aircraft are over
20 years old.
One exception is Britain's Virgin Group, which was recently chosen
as operator of a new flag carrier airline, Virgin Nigeria, and has
started plying domestic and international routes with newer
Although an official casualty list has yet to be issued, the dead
include prominent Nigerian officials and businessmen, a US military
officer, two Britons and a German.
Two US forensic experts are expected to arrive in Nigeria to help
identify the dismembered, charred bodies of the victims at the
crash site 30 km (20 miles) north of Lagos.
Obasanjo said Nigerians would observe a minute's silence at midday
on Wednesday and Ogun state government would hold an interfaith
service at the crash site on Thursday.