The Navy, still reeling from the shock of the helicopter crash on Sunday which claimed the lives of former Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa, the former National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi and four others, has set up a board to probe the reason the helicopter went down.
They received backing from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, who in an emergency meeting held at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, said there must be thoroughness and transparency in the probe.
They also expressed willingness to hire consultants to be part of the investigation team as observers.
In a communiqué read by the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi said: “Members support the directive of the President for a thorough investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the helicopter crash and call for transparency and openness in the process.”
“Forum further resolved to engage a consultant to participate in the investigation process or serve as an observer.”
Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor, Chief of Training and Operations of the Navy announced the constitution of the probe board, which consists of aircraft investigation specialists from Augusta Westland, the manufacturer of the crashed helicopter and other aviation regulatory agencies as provided by existing regulations.
Admiral Ogbor said all naval helicopters including the crashed NN07, were properly maintained and routinely serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, as the last maintenance on the crashed helicopter was on the 10th of November 2012.
“Nigerian Navy pilots are very experienced. In fact, the captain in command has flown over 800 hours. The co-pilot had flown over 300 hours.
“All our pilots are trained in the best aviation institutions all over the world.
“Additionally, spare parts for the helicopters are obtained directly from the manufacturers (Agusta Westland) or its approved maintenance centres worldwide,’’ he said.
The Naval Admiral also said that the helicopter was procured in 2004 from the manufacturer directly.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives in a statement from its Chairperson of Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (PDP Abia) said that the committee would conduct a holistic investigation into the crash in liaison with the military authorities. It would focus mainly on the technical fitness of the crash, as it has invited experts from Italy, the place of purchase of the aircraft to join the probe.
It has also been found out that the Federal Government might embark on a technical audit of all military and police aircraft and helicopters.
It was learnt that the Navy had three aircraft before last Saturday’s crash.
The aircraft are Augusta A109 helicopter (a light utility helicopter bought from Italy); which crashed; Aeronautics Aerostar (Reconnaissance UAV from Israel) and Westland Lynx (Medium Utility helicopter from the United Kingdom).
It was gathered that the three aircraft (including the ill-fated Augusta) were considered to be in “good shape” before the crash.