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United in grief again (1)

As is often the case, grief is the direct consequence of the failure of duty of care compounded by mendacity and incompetence.

Subversive neglect and/or outright negligence would escalate matters beyond toxic combination to fatal and irrevocable injury.

In a few days (7th November 2021) two King’s College families namely our revered former Acting Principal (Headmaster) Mr. Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia and the cerebral Professor Claude Ake will reflect on the profoundly clinical evidence of Justice Charles Archibong (Retd) (ex-St. Gregory’s College, Obalende).

“On 7th November 1996, a Boeing 727 aircraft, registration number 5N BBG with 144 passengers and crew onboard operating Flight 086, took off from Port Harcourt at 3.52 p.m. local time bound for Lagos. The aircraft and flight services were those of Aviation Development Company Plc (ADC), a publicly quoted Nigerian company.

In the process of clearing the ADC aircraft for its descent into Lagos, an air traffic controller who controlled and separated air traffic set the ADC aircraft on a collision course with another aircraft. That aircraft was a Triax Boeing 727 operating flight

TIX 185 which just departed from Lagos heading to Enugu.

The ADC aircraft plunged into the Lagoon at Ejirin, near Epe, killing all 144 passengers on board (including Mr. Ajumogobia and Professor Ake).”

After the crash, the Minister of Aviation ordered the grounding of all ADC aircrafts and suspension of its operations. He also ordered an investigation into the cause of the accident.”

That was twenty-five years ago but the grief, nightmare; shock, and mourning ensured remained fresh and galling. If I remember rightly the Chief Investigator was Cudjoe Sagoe (ex-Igbobi College, Lagos and Imperial College, London).

By way of digression, Cudjoe died relatively young. Matters were not helped by the fact when he returned to Nigeria with an MSc in Aeronautical Engineering, he joined the Nigerian Federal Aviation Authority (now known as Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria) only to find himself in the invidious situation whereby he (from Lagos State) had to report to a boss with inferior qualification but who was from a favoured part of the nation.

Even more grievous was the case of Bestman, who was a classmate of Cudjoe. His score in the final BSc exam in Aeronautical Engineering was 100 percent. The examiners could not believe what they had witnessed. So they made him repeat the examination in the full glare of several professors. He scored 100 percent again. For the first time in the history of Imperial College, Bestman bypassed MSc and went directly to the Ph.D. course. He finished it in record time. Out of panic, he was sent off to British Aerospace in Bristol where he again astonished them with his brilliance. It was the same story when he was sent off to Australia to lecture in rocket science.

Suddenly, he caught the fever of patriotism and returned to Nigeria. He ended up at the Rivers State Institute of Technology, Port Harcourt. He apparently perished in grief, frustration, and penury. All things bright and beautiful, Nigeria devours or destroys them all!!

Back to the judgment delivered by Justice Charles Archibong on 10 November 2009 (thirteen years after the crash):

“..in the circumstances that led to the crash of the ADC 727 5N BBG Flight 086, I found that the authorities (the agencies of government directly concerned) i.e. all the defendants bar the first defendant (unnamed Mr. X), failed severally in the discharge of their statutory duties, including the failure to release promptly the report of the panel appointed to investigate the causes of the crash. The delay compounded the negligence that contributed to that tragic accident. I found the failure by the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Government of Nigeria to release the panel’s report promptly after it had been completed to be negligent in the extreme and reckless, and it was irresponsible and they were culpable as a result.”

CNN’s incredibly versatile and energetic Richard Quest who combines his interest in aviation matters with stock exchange/corporate issues has been on the case. Look out for the riveting expose:

“During that interval (thirteen years), the airline died.

Before this tragic crash, the company had been planning a major expansion program. Deposits in United States dollars had been made on aircrafts. Negotiations by the Chairman of the Company, Captain Augustine Okon with the aircraft leasing company in Florida, USA had to be abandoned once the crash occurred. The leasing company refused to refund the deposit. That formed the basis of court action in the United States. Scheduled “D” checks for aircrafts could not go ahead as planned – no revenue. Planned re-capitalization was aborted. There were staff redundancies. Leases and loans from various banks could not be serviced when they fell due. There was a loss of cargo revenue as well. Because aircrafts could no longer be serviced due to the inability to continue the mandatory checks on aircrafts, the company had to ground its aircraft long before the end of its economic life. Insurance premiums skyrocketed due to assessed higher risks. The company’s share price plummeted. Losses, losses, losses.

Read also: Explainer: Why demand for aircraft spares is rising in Nigeria

Let us now focus on the victims of this monumental tragedy.

Mr. Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia:

Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia was born Macaulay Frank Bestman, to Chief Amakiri Bestman and Madam Membereba Orubibi on 9th January 1914 in Abonnema. His father, also known as Ajumogobiaye Amakiri was the 1st son of Chief Bestman Ajumogobia Briggs from Kalabari Old Shipping, one of the 11 founding chiefs of Abonnema. His mother was a descendant of the Duweinala family who was amongst the founders of Kalabari.

He started school at Nyemoni Primary School, Abonnema in 1923 and went on to Government College Umuahia on 29th June 1930 where he completed his secondary education. It was here that he developed an interest in science, and as a student, he was appointed laboratory curator of the college. He left Government College in 1932 and went on to Yaba Higher College as a foundation student, where he studied Physics and Mathematics. It was at Yaba Higher College that he and some of his contemporaries such as Isaac Dagogo JohnBull (later Erekosima) and Horatio Briggs (later Tralapuye Oruwariye) first mooted the idea of adopting traditional family names. He changed his name to Feniobu Iroloye Ajumogobia in December 1950, a few months before his marriage to Florence Daisy Inetubo Wokoma, daughter of the late Rev. Canon A.M. Wokoma and Mrs. M.A. Wokoma.

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