More revelations have been brought to the fore over what may have led to the Bellview plane crash in Lisa, Ogun State on October 22, 2005, with a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, revealing that a report by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had shown that the crash was caused by a “low incendiary device” on board the ill-fated aircraft.
The former minister however maintained that despite the report of the FBI, he had never ordered the former Commissioner and Chief Executive of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr. Angus Ozoka, to inform the public that the plane crash was caused by a bomb.
A low incendiary device is defined as a weapon originally designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using fire and is colloquially referred to as a bomb.
Ozoka had, in an interview granted to THISDAY, claimed that Fani-Kayode had pressurised him to inform the public that it was a bomb that blew down the Bellview airplane that crashed in 2005, killing the 117 people on board. The former minister however denied the allegation.
Fani-Kayode’s statement came just as another former Commissioner and CEO of AIB, Dr. Sam Oduselu, took on Ozoka over which one of them was the first to head the organisation.
Oduselu, in a statement by his media consultant, Mr. Aliu Mohammed Olurotimi, disputed the claim by Ozoka in last week’s story exclusively published by THISDAY on the Bellview crash that he was the pioneer commissioner and chief executive officer of the AIB.
In his clarification, Fani-Kayode said preliminary report of the FBI on the accident had indicated that there was a “low incendiary device” on the aircraft.
Fani-Kayode said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had written to him in 2006 when he was appointed Minister of Aviation and alleged that Ozoka’s reports on the five crashes that had taken place between 2005 and 2006 were false.
“On the Bellview crash specifically, they said that his report was fake. Apart from that there was a preliminary FBI report from the American FBI which, based on their investigations, in conjunction with the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) of the US, claimed that there was a fire on the plane which was caused by a ‘low incendiary device’.
“That did not reflect in Ozoka’s report or the report of any of our security agencies and it raised very serious concerns for me and (former) President Olusegun Obasanjo. After much discussion and investigations of our own, I wrote to (former) President Obasanjo formally and copied him with the FBI report and made my recommendations,” the former minister said in a statement.
He said those recommendations were to invite the FBI to Nigeria to carry out a full investigation into the Bellview crash, remove Ozoka from the Ministry of Aviation, scrap his whole unit called Accident Investigation Protection Board (AIPB) and set up a new parastatal called AIB, which would be independent of the ministry and which would file reports directly to the president and just copy the minister in the event of a crash.
Meanwhile, in the statement issued on behalf of Oduselu, he said he was the pioneer commissioner of AIB, adding that Ozoka’s claim that he was the first to head the organisation was not true.
“Firstly, it is important to point out that Mr. Angus Ozoka is not the pioneer Commissioner/CEO of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), which was established in 2007 in line with the new Civil Aviation Act of 2006.
He was the Director of Accident Investigation and Prevention Board (AIPB) in the Federal Ministry of Aviation. He had nothing to do with the new AIB, which pioneer Commissioner/CEO is Sam Oduselu,” Olurotimi said in the statement.
Further dismissing Ozoka’s allegation that Oduselu had presided over the air crashes that took place in Nigeria between 2005 and 2006 as the Director of Airworthiness and Standards in the NCAA, the statement said no person would deliberately take a decision that would claim the lives of innocent people, adding that the former commissioner did not compromise his office.
“Again, it is sad that Ozoka in his attempt to cast aspersions on the competence and integrity of Oduselu as Director of Airworthiness Standards at NCAA has forgotten that no man would deliberately attempt to put his job on the line by taking a decision that would claim the lives of innocent Nigerians.
“Oduselu did not do anything to compromise his office as Director of Airworthiness at NCAA. Instead, he did his best in the interest of the country,” it added.
Ozoka had in the interview claimed that he was the head of AIB but was forced out to make way for Oduselu, who as Director of Airworthiness at NCAA had permitted the ill-fated Bellview airplane to fly despite the fact that the latter knew it was not airworthy.
Ozoka had added that he was removed because the then minister did not like his report on the cause of the accident and so replaced him with Oduselu.
In another statement made available to THISDAY, Ozoka further maintained that when he was removed as the AIB commissioner, he returned to the Ministry of Aviation where he was a director until his retirement in 2008.
To prove that he was the first CEO of AIB, he enclosed a letter written to the Minister of Aviation by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation on July 26, 2007, with Ref Number HCSF/359/63 and titled: “Appeal/Request for Posting: Engr. Angus I. Ozoka mni, Former Head, Accident Investigation Bureau (Aviation).”
The letter read: “Reference to a letter dated 4th May, 2007 on the above stated subject (copy attached), I am directed to inform you that this office has carefully reviewed the content of Mr. Ozoka’s appeal and directs that the ministry should clarify the status of the officer following the dropping of charges against him (which are considered baseless) in your letter Ref: No. FMA/PS/DISP/2006/1/109 dated 12th February, 2007 to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation copied to the officer (copy attached).”
Ozoka said he was removed because the former minister did not like his report on the investigation of the Bellview crash and appointed Oduselu to do his bidding, but investigations had revealed that the report put together in 2010 by Oduselu was rejected by the State Security Service (SSS) for alleged distortion.
He maintained the final report that was sent to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was the one done last year by the current Commissioner and CEO of AIB, Captain Muktar Usman.