Get well visit...President Goodluck Jonathan flanked by the Chief Medical Director National Hospital, Abuja, Prof. Bello Bala Shehu (l) and Minister of State for Power, Darius Ishaku, during the President's visit to the injured Taraba State Governor Danbaba Suntai, at the National Hospital in Abuja... Friday
By Muhammad Bello, Patrick Ugeh, Wole Ayodele and Chinedu Eze
Taraba State Governor, Mr. Danbaba Suntai, who was wounded Thursday evening after his plane crashed in Yola is now in stable condition, President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed Friday after visiting him at the National Hospital in Abuja.
Suntai had initially been admitted at the German Hospital unit of the Specialist Hospital in Yola after a Cessna 208, 5N-BMJ, he was flying crashed at a farm some 20 kilometres to the Yola Airport. Officials disclosed that the governor, who was in the aircraft with three aides, suffered a broken shoulder and limbs in addition to lacerations on his face.
The governor, who was unconscious after the crash, was flown from Yola at about 12.25pm Friday to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in an air ambulance from where he was driven in an ambulance to the National Hospital.
President Jonathan spoke on the governor’s health Friday afternoon after visiting him at the National Hospital.
Jonathan, who arrived the hospital in a BMW car with few security aides at about 3:15p.m and was received by the Chief Medical Director, Professor Bello Bala Shehu, later spoke with reporters.
"First and foremost I have to thank God for what has happened. Plane crash is not something you just wave off. We are quite happy that the governor is stable, I have seen him, doctors are working very hard on him.
"I believe that God willing, he will come out of it. But he is still in hospital. Being a governor, people are worried. People want to know his state of health," he said.
The chief medical director of the National Hospital, Abuja, Prof. Shehu also confirmed that Suntai was in a good state.
"He is very stable. For the first 24 hours of any injuries, there are worries; but they were very few.
"We will continue to observe him for the first 24 hours. There is no need to do any operation on him. He is very stable. Given what happened, we are very satisfied with the situation at the moment," he said.
Earlier Jonathan told a delegation of Muslims led by Vice President Namadi Sambo that the federal government will do everything to ensure that the governor gets the best medical attention even if it means flying him abroad.
It was however gathered that immediately Suntai arrived the hospital, he was taken to the intensive care unit where preliminary checks and emergency medical and clinical interventions were administered to stabilize him.
Suntai, who was heavily bandaged, was driven in a State House Medical Centre ambulance with registration number SH 576. He was placed in a reclining chair in the ambulance which came in a convoy of about seven other vehicles. He wore an oxygen mask and other health-monitoring gadgets.
Journalists were however not allowed close to the private ward of the hospital’s ICU. Men of the State Security Service (SSS) harassed and pushed journalists back and manned all the doors leading to the unit.
However, security, which was initially tight in and around the hospital with movement restricted around the radiology and the ICU was relaxed at around 5.00pm. Only one pick-up truck of regular police was stationed just before the reception area.
Suntai had left Jalingo for Yola where he was scheduled to hold a meeting with PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, over the crisis in the party in Adamawa and Taraba states.
Before his departure, the governor had received the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, Hugo Ramos Minnes, who paid him a courtesy call in continuation of efforts towards the attainment of Suntai’s objective of replicating Cuba’s large scale agriculture in Taraba State.
When the news of the crash filtered into Jalingo Thursday night, the entire city was thrown into pandemonium and mourning following misleading reports on the internet that the governor and his aides lost their lives in the crash.
The three other occupants were his chief security officer, Dangana Tino; the chief detail, Joel Danladi and his aide-de-camp, DSP Iliya Dasat. They are however still at the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, and are said to be in stable condition and responding to treatment.
THISDAY checks reveal that this is not the first time Suntai would be flying from Jalingo to Yola and other parts of the country in the crashed plane as well as other planes in the fleet of the state government since he graduated from the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology in Zaria.
Suntai had acquired two planes early this year to boost the two acquired by the Rev. Jolly Nyame administration as part of preparations to establish Taraba Air, a state owned airline.
The governor had in fact constructed an airstrip at his village in Suntai to facilitate easy shuttle between his home town and Jalingo just as he has intensified efforts to complete the Jalingo airport which was earlier scheduled to be commissioned before the end of this year.
But THISDAY has learnt that the governor may have been warned not to embark on the flight.
A source at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said that given it was near sunset and the aircraft which is on visual flight rule can barely operate at night.
The source added that although private aircraft pilots have their regulation, it is not as stringent as that for commercial airline pilots because they (private aircraft pilots) can only convey family members and friends.
He also said that the governor was not type rated on the Cessna aircraft, but given that the aircraft type was similar to the Tampico trainer aircraft he had trained with, he could operate it without further simulator training on Cessna.
On the regulation of activities of pilots with pilot private licence that fly their own aircraft, the NCAA insider said: “It is your responsibility to check yourself. Self-regulation is key to it. We only licence you and make sure you meet other specified conditions and you will be at liberty to take decisions.”