People at the scene of the plane crash
By Tunde Sulaiman
President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday declared three days of national mourning for those who lost their lives in a Dana plane crash in Lagos, according to a statement from the Presidential Villa.
The Dana Air flight from Abuja to Lagos crashed 11 nautical miles to Murtala Mohammed Airport with 147 people on board, according to an airline official.
The statement said Jonathan had cancelled all his public engagements scheduled for Monday and had also directed that the Nigerian flag be flown at half-mast for the three days of national mourning.
The President has also ordered the “fullest possible investigation’’ into the crash. He has also cancelled all engagements he had scheduled for Monday
The statement said that in compliance with the President’s directive, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, is already in Lagos to oversee the crash investigations and present an interim report to the Federal Government as quickly as possible.
“The President joins all Nigerians in mourning all those who lost their lives in the plane crash which has sadly plunged the nation into further sorrow on a day when Nigerians were already in grief over the loss of many other innocent lives in the church bombing in Bauchi State.
“President Jonathan assures air travellers in the country that every possible effort will be made to ensure that the right lessons are learnt from the tragic loss of valuable lives in today’s plane crash and that further measures will be put in place to boost aviation safety in the country.
“He prays that God Almighty will grant the families of the victims of the plane crash the courage and fortitude to bear their irreparable loss,’’ said the statement signed by Dr Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the airline, Mr Tony Usidamen, said that 147 people were on board the plane, 139 of them passengers.
However, Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, who said she is saddened by the Dana Air crash, at a press conference said there were 153 passengers and six crew on board the ill-fated flight.
A very distraught looking Oduah, who was in black as she addressed the media, said: "I am extremely saddened by the news of the crash and I assure the nation that investigations are underway."
The Aviation Minister, who fought hard to keep her emotions in check, said the crew of the aircraft declared a May Day (an emergency announcement in the aviation industry) some 11 nautical miles to Lagos before going off the air.
“Right now this is all the information we have,” said Oduah, who at a stage paused to wipe away tears, before continuing to wish God to grant the souls of the departed eternal peace.
She also said her heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones in the plane crash and as God to give them the fortitude to bear their loses.
The aircraft left Abuja en-route Lagos some 50 minutes earlier.