Concerns Mount over Decision to Fly Osinbajo on Commercial Helicopter

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Yemi Osinbajo

• NAF: We don’t know why decision was taken •God, Adeboye’s prayers delivered me, says VP

By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja

There are growing concerns over the decision by the authorities to fly Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on a private aircraft  as against the official aircraft from the  presidential  fleet that normally conveys him to his official engagements within the country.

This is coming as the vice president yesterday said God’s mercy and the special prayer of protection that the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, prayed for him last Friday were responsible for his escape in the helicopter crash.

He said that no amount of thanksgiving and praises to God would be enough for saving his life and nine others in Saturday’s helicopter crash.

The chopper belonging to Carverton Helicopters crash landed  in Kabba Stadium in Kogi State, while conveying Osinbajo to a campaign rally.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) said weekend it could not explain why the decision to fly the Vice President on a commercial helicopter was taken but noted that the NAF aircraft in the presidential air fleet regularly flew the vice president to official duties.

NAF also issued a statement to the effect that none of its planes flew the vice president to Kogi contrary to videos circulated on social media.

Security analysts and political watchers have expressed concern over the crash and the decision to fly the vice president outside the presidential air fleet while conspiracy theorists raised the alarm, alleging sabotage.

“Even in a campaign period, it is strange that a vice president would travel on a commercial helicopter when the presidential fleet is replete with helicopters and other aircraft that can convey him to the rally. Why is it so?,” a security analyst and Chairman, Security Imperatives, George Amata, queried.

Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, in his reaction, said the crash was “suspicious” and reminiscent of the crash that killed late former National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi (rtd) and former Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa.

“Interesting to note that the helicopter crash that almost took the life of @Prof. Osinbajo occured in Kabba…

“Also interesting to note what happened as the pilot tried to land. Reminds me of the suspicious “crash” that killed Azazi and Yakowa. I smell a rat”, he tweeted.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) said weekend it could not explain the rationale behind the decision to fly Osinbajo on a commercial helicopter.

“The Presidential Air fleet reports to the Presidency through the National Security Adviser (NSA). They also report to the Chief of Air Staff.

“The Presidential Air fleet is manned by our personnel and the commander is an air force officer, though there are also civilian pilots.

“In terms of how they took that decision, I cannot speak to that. Usually,  the vice president flies directly NAF aircraft  but you know it is a political rally so they may have taken the decision based on that”, NAF spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, told THISDAY in a chat.

Also, NAF clarified weekend that the helicopter involved in the crash was not one of its own.

“The attention of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has been drawn to various reports in the media purporting that the Augusta AW139 Helicopter, which was involved in a mishap in Kabba, Kogi State yesterday, February 2, 2019, while conveying the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, belonged to the NAF or was from the 011 Presidential Air Fleet (011 PAF).

“Some unscrupulous/undiscerning individuals have even gone so far as to circulate a video showing the crash landing of a military helicopter, from an unrelated incident, which neither occured in Nigeria nor involved NAF or 011 PAF aircraft, portraying it as the one that crashed in Kabba”, it said.

NAF stated that the helicopter that crashed in Kabba does not belong to it or 011 PAF.

“The owners/operators of the civilian helicopter, Messrs Caverton Helicopters, have already issued a statement on the matter. In addition, the military Dauphin Helicopter, painted in desert camouflage colour, seen in the video circulating on social media does not belong to the NAF and should not be misrepresented as belonging to the NAF.

“Accordingly, the public is advised to disregard such erroneous information and the misleading video.

“The NAF joins the nation in thanking God for sparing the life of our Vice President as well as other passengers and crew members involved in the mishap. We pray for the safety of the Vice President and that all his take-offs will culminate in an equal number of safe landings,”  NAF said.

A statement at the weekend said the presidency had ordered a probe into the crash.

In a related development, the vice president yesterday said God’s mercy and the special prayer of protection that the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, prayed for him last Friday were responsible for his escape in the helicopter crash.

Osinbajo spoke during the Thanksgiving service, held at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) City of Grace Lokoja, Kogi State.

 “I was at the Redemption Camp last Friday although I came late, after the vigil, Papa Adeboye called me and asked how the campaign was going and I told him, it was going well. He then prayed for me and specifically said ‘God, you know how dear this my son is to me, please protect him.’

“He said the prayers continuously for more than five times. I believe God must have listened and decided to save my life and those in my entourage,” Osinbajo said.

Osinbajo said he believed that God and Adeboye’s prayers were responsible for his escape last Saturday.

He said that no amount of thanksgiving and praises to God would be enough for saving his life and nine others in Saturday’s helicopter crash.

 “Only God can take the glory for saving his life and that of the nine crew members on board. No amount of thanksgiving and praises to God would be enough for saving my life and nine crew members on board.

“All I have to say is that we are grateful and we are moving to the next level; the Lord will uphold us to the next level and Kogi will be number one,” Osinbajo said.

Earlier, in a live Telecast from the RCCG HQ, Lagos, the General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, asked the congregation to rise and give glory to God for saving the life of his son, Osinbajo from a crash.

According to Adeboye, the devil wanted to take the life of Osinbajo, but God has put the devil to shame.

He, therefore, asked the congregation to specially appreciate God on behalf of the vice president and all the crew onboard, for his supernatural protection, saying Nigeria would not mourn.

In his sermon, entitled, “Carriers of Glory,” Adeboye, said for anybody to carry glory, he must be a true child of God and live a life of holiness.

“Do not to take the glory to yourself because it is not yours, belongs to God,” Adeboye said.

Accord Party Presidential Candidate Demands Probe

Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of Accord Party, Reverend Isaac Babatunde Ositelu has called for thorough investigations into the immediate and remote causes of the crash of the helicopter conveying Osinbajo.

  While congratulating the vice president and his team as well as the crew of the crashed chopper for escaping unscathed, he said that the circumstances surrounding the crash of the aircraft must be probed and outcome made public in order to ensure that there is no repeat of such accident.