The plane crash involving Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, which was broken by SaharaReporters, apparently triggered a nationwide alarm and search for the governor and his five aides, Stella Oduah, the Minister of Aviation, has said.
The claim is contained in a statement on the crash of the Cessna 208, 5N-BMJ in Yola, Adamawa State. The statement was signed by Joe Obi, an aide to the Aviation Minister. But contrary to the statement that the Ministry began a "search and rescue" operation to locate Governor Suntai's crash site, SaharaReporters learnt that the crash victims were presumed dead for several hours, well before any search team could reach them.
Some sources said that the rescue team did not reach the governor until around 8 p.m. (Nigerian time), although the plane had crashed at about 5:30 p.m.
Several sources who provided information for our earlier report saw the crash on a hill at the NNPC depot near the Yola International Airport in Adamawa State. When contacted by SaharaReporters in those early hours, however, several aviation and National Emergency Management Agency officials denied there had been a crash.
Mr. Suntai is an aviation enthusiast who owns two aircraft and a helicopter. Aviation sources say he also owns an airstrip which he built with embezzled funds in his village.
The governor obtained a pilot’s license from the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria in 2010 and had completed numerous solo flights.
SaharaReporters learnt that the governor flew the plane from Jalingo to Yola airport but lost contact with Yola air control around 5:20p.m. With no rescue in sight, all the occupants of the plane were initially presumed dead. Several Northern governors began frantic inquiries about Mr. Suntai’s situation following our report.
Although there is no specific medical information regarding Mr. Suntai's condition, it was learned that the Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, has visited the injured governor.
An official of the Taraba State government told SaharaReporters that arrangements would be made to fly the governor abroad for treatment once it is determined that he is stable enough to undertake a long plane trip.
Mr. Suntai and his injured passengers are currently receiving treatment at the Adamawa Standard German Hospital in Yola. One of the state commissioners described the governor’s condition as stable. Governor Suntai's daughter, Mariam, said in a Blackberry status update that her father was okay but injured.
Mr. Suntai reportedly bought the plane, a Cessna Grand Caravan, from a member of the House of Representatives from Kebbi, Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
Mr. Na’Allah recently bought a Swiss-made Pilatus PC12 with tail number N689PE.
SaharaReporters also learnt that Governor Suntai recently set up “Taraba Airline” following his purchase of an Embraer ERJ-145 jet.
Mr. Suntai has been a controversial figure in Taraba politics. He recently organized the impeachment of his deputy, Sani Abubakar Danladi.