Nigeria begins a three-day national mourning period today (Monday) for victims of the passenger jet that crashed shortly after takeoff from the capital, Abuja on Sunday. The crash, the third major air disaster in Nigeria in just over a year, killed at least 99 people. Remi Oyo is spokeswoman for Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. She tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty President Obasanjo has ordered a full-scale investigation into the cause of the crash.
“As you know in the aviation industry, results of investigation don’t come until hours after the crash of an airline may have happened. So I think it is too early for us to begin to pronounce that this is the reason for the crash. However, I need to let you know that immediately after the president heard about the crash, he ordered a full-scale investigation into this because the president is deeply, deeply saddened and profoundly shocked at the fact that we are having this crash. And beginning today, Monday, the flags in Nigeria will fly at half-mast for three days which also coincides with the three days of national mourning,” she said.
Oyo takes special note of Nigeria’s many air disasters in just over a year, but she says President Obasanjo has taken steps to bring about fundamental reforms in the Nigerian aviation industry.
“I agree. We are all profoundly in shock here just like our president is, and we are saddened. But as you know, when we had this kind of problem last year, the president was immediately up and about and trying to ensure that there are fundamental reforms in the aviation industry, and that has already begun. Not only did the president invite all stakeholders, but he made it a national discourse, and fundamental changes have come. All airlines presented their aircraft for recertification. And so all of these things are being done in the aviation industry right now,” Oyo said.
She would not say whether President Obasanjo would prefer for the Nigerian government to take control of the country’s aviation industry.
“I do not want to preempt what the president will do or what policies they plan to have come out of this tragedy. But I believe that the president is already consulting and trying to find out how we can put this behind us so that we will never again have this,” she said.
Saying she was not speaking for the Nigerian airline industry, Oyo says about 100 passengers might have died from the crash and seven might have survived.
“The airlines took off from Abuja on a scheduled flight that was going to the northwest city of Sokoto, and it had on board many Nigerians. One of such souls is his royal highness the Sultan of Sokoto who is the spiritual leader of Moslems in Nigeria is one of those that we hear was on board,” Oyo said.
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