It was A narrow escape from the gruesome hands of Death as former Oyo State Governor, Chief Rasheed Ladoja and several delegates to the ongoing national conference were involved in an air mishap,an Overland airways plane they boarded had its windshield damaged while airborne.
An eyewitness account revealed that the plane, with registration number 5NBPE, took off from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, had its windshield damaged as it was approaching the Niger State airspace and had to make a detour to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
It was also gathered that the aircraft with about 48 people on board took off a few minutes after 8 o’clock in the morning, heading for Abuja. One of the passengers involved while giving account of the near-mishap narrated how some of the passengers fainted on hearing the bad news. “We were midway in the Niger State airspace when the aircraft’s windshield got broken and the pilot made a detour to Lagos,” another passenger said.
According to him, after about three hours stay in Lagos, the passengers were moved into another Overland aircraft arriving from Enugu. National Mirror learnt that most of the passengers, including Ladoja, were returning to Abuja to resume plenary at the ongoing national conference.
Other delegates on board were a former President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Comrade Lanre Ogundipe; Senators Gbenga Kaka from Ogun State and Hosea Agboola from Oyo State as well as Mr. Demola Akinlabi, an officer in the Accountant- General of the Federation’s Office. Others include the Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Prince Gbade Lana and a Federal National Population Commissioner, Alhaji Abdul-Lateef Gbadamosi.
It was gathered that Ladoja was due to take his turn to speak at the national conference yesterday but due to the near air mishap, which resulted in his absence, his turn was skipped.
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, has, however, given more insight into why the aircraft flight 1170 to Abuja made an air return to Lagos. NAMA General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Supo Atobatele, in a statement stated that the ATR-42 aircraft diverted from Ibadan en-route Abuja to Lagos early yesterday morning due to a reported cracked windshield.
He explained that the pilot while airborne noticed some cracks on the windshield and subsequently requested to divert the aircraft to Lagos, being the base of the airline to allow for change of plane for the passengers.
He said that the plane was airborne around 8.42am and diverted by 8.57am, landing in Lagos at 9.43am. Atobatele noted that there were 42 passengers and six crewmembers onboard the aircraft as at the time of the incident. He added: “There is no cause for alarm as the diversion was precautionary and this conforms to the basic safety norms of the industry.”
Meanwhile, the founder of Nigeria Advance Party, NAP and a member of the ongoing national conference, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, was yesterday bundled out of the venue of the conference by officers of the State Security Service, SSS, for not putting on his tag.
This was even as the activist insisted that the outcome of the conference must be approved through a referendum and not by the National Assembly. Braithwaite, who was initially accosted at the entrance of the hall by the SSS officers refused to put on his tag, asking them whether they did not know him personally, but officers claimed that they did not know him and he left them and entered.
Having been seated comfortably for about 10 minutes, two SSS officers pounced on him and told him the reason why he had to cooperate with them, showing him that other delegates put on their tags.
Braithwaite was, however, ushered out of the hall by a lady SSS and a man, insisting that he must go and pick his tag from the secretariat. The security officials added that it was the instruction from the secretariat that delegates and others must put on their tags while the session was on.
Braithwaite, who has not since the inception of the conference, seemed not to be aware of the rules and later went to obtain his tag. The SSS officials were apparently reacting to the warning from the Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, last week that all delegates should put on their tags to avoid embarrassment from the security operatives. Braithwaite, who admitted being accosted by the security agents, however, stated that he was not bundled out of the hall.
In an interview, he said that the report of the conference could not be subjected to the approval of the National Assembly and if that was the intention of the Federal Government, he would pull out of the conference.
He said that the best thing was to subject the report of the ongoing conference to the approval of the people of Nigeria through a referendum as proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I was not here during the presidential inauguration speech and I have not read the speech, but this is the conference that is supposed to represent the ethnic nationalities of the country.
“The National Assembly having to rectify the report would make nonsense of the deliberation. If the report has to be rectified by the NASS, I would opt out of this conference. It has to go through referendum.
Government derives legitimacy from the sovereignty of the people not the other way round. “So, to say that the National Assembly has to rectify the conference report is wrong. The President is a man of destiny because he happens to be there at this point in time.
This conference would have come up in any event. “We said it several times that if government did not convoke the conference, people would convoke the conference on their own.”