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Hope Fades for Missing Nigerian Plane


Authorities in Nigeria say an aircraft that went missing during a domestic flight, more than a week ago, has as yet to be found. From Abuja, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja files.

The Beechcraft twin turboprop was on its way to Obudu tourist resort in Nigeria's southeast, a remote mountain region. Owners of the plane say the aircraft was scheduled to have landed at its destination one hour after departure from Lagos, Nigeria's commercial city, but had not been seen since. There were three crew members on board.

The Nigerian aviation authorities say they scoured the mountainous terrain of Obudu for any sign of the missing aircraft, but found nothing.

The failure of the authorities to find the plane has generated anger in Nigeria, which recorded a string of deadly plane crashes in the past few years. Despite promises to revamp the aviation sector, experts say technical and logistic deficiencies, particularly the lack of navigational aids and an ineffective search and rescue response,are compromising aviation safety in Nigeria.

Retired pilot John Ojikutu says the search for the missing aircraft has been hampered by the absence of total radar coverage for the country.

"We have a situation where, for the past 10 years, the country has been talking about total radar coverage for this country. Fifty-six-million naira was devoted for the whole thing more than 10 years ago. And, that radar was supposed to cover the whole country. If the one [radar] in Port Harcourt were to be there, it probably would have picked [up] the aircraft and somebody would have known at the time it dropped from the radar screen. Somebody could have frozen the point it dropped and it would have made search and rescue easy," he said.

The Nigerian senate and opposition Action Congress Party have described the failure to find the plane as a "national disgrace and embarrassment."

The Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency says it is scaling down the search for the missing aircraft, an indication the authorities may have given up any hope of finding the plane.

Nigeria has recorded three major air crashes since 2005

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