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Nigerian Military's Air Crashes Raise Major Concerns

FILE - People gather at the scene of a military plane crash in Bassa, near Abuja, Nigeria, Feb. 21, 2021. The crash killed all seven people on board, said officials.

Nigeria's air force is investigating the crash this week of a training aircraft that killed two officers in northern Kaduna state. It was the fourth fatal air crash in the past year for Nigeria's military, which has been struggling to fight terrorists and bandits and to acquire better aircraft.

Nigerian air force spokesperson Edward Gabkwet said in a statement Wednesday that the force had established a board to oversee the investigation.

The trainer aircraft crashed Tuesday near a base in Kaduna state, killing two officials on board. Nigerian Air Force Chief Oladayo Amao visited the base Wednesday and assured officers that accidents would be curbed.

But after four crashes in one year, the accident is raising major concerns.

Security analyst Senator Iroegbu said the crashes have affected the morale of the officers.

"The frequency is appalling, especially in a noncombatant situation," Iroegbu said. "This is generally as a result of lack of maintenance or carelessness or mechanical faults. It affects also the morale of the armed forces and even in the populace, in their beliefs in the actions and capacities of the armed forces."

20 deaths

At least 20 security personnel have been killed in air accidents since January 2021. Seven officers were killed in February of that year when a plane crashed near Abuja soon after reporting engine failure. And the then-NIgerian army chief, Ibrahim Attahiru, died along with 10 other top officials when their aircraft crashed in Kaduna state last May.

Beacon Security analyst Kabiru Adamu said past investigations were not made public and that affects accountability.

"To check the crashes, number one is to make sure investigations are thoroughly conducted and that their outcomes are studied and implemented," Adamu said. "Part of the challenge is that we're not hearing enough of the outcome of previous investigations, so we don't know what led to those accidents, so corrective measures are rarely implemented."

But retired Air Force officer Darlington Abdullahi argued that the results of investigations are not meant to be publicized, and that crashes do not hamper security operations.

"When the results of such investigations come out, they're not public. They're sent to the appropriate authorities to use with a view to preventing reoccurrence of such accidents," Abdullahi said. "That does not cripple the system entirely because there are so many people who are in training and other aircraft will come in, but there are often lessons to learn.”

Last week, the U.S. approved a previously suspended arms trade with Nigeria worth nearly $1 billion. The deal calls for the U.S. to supply Nigeria with a dozen attack helicopters, as well as engines for the aircraft.