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Taraba ex-governor had no licence to fly the plane in which he crashed, investigations reveal

THE late Governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai, was not licensed to fly the aircraft in which he was involved in a crash in October 2012 sustaining injuries that eventually led to his death.

This latest development is according to a report by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) the body that is responsible for investigating accidents and incidents in the aviation industry.

The AIB, on Thursday, released the final reports of investigations into four accidents and two serious incidents, alongside recommendations to forestall future occurrences. The reports include the serious incident involving a Delta Airlines Airbus A330-223 aircraft on February 13, 2018, at the Lagos Airport, and the incident involving a Diamond 40 aircraft belonging to the International Aviation College, Ilorin on November 25, 2013.

Others are the crash of a Bristow Helicopter in Lagos on February 3, 2016, the incident involving a Gulfstream 200 aircraft belonging to Nest Oil on January 20, 2018, at the Abuja Airport, and the incident involving a Dana Air MD 83 aircraft at the Port Harcourt Airport on February 20, 2018.
Briefing newsmen shortly at the presentation of the report, Akin Olateru, a Commissioner with the AIB, said that investigations showed that Suntai was not certified, qualified and competent to fly the aircraft.

Though Suntai had a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), Olateru said he was not certified by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) neither did he obtain the Instrument Flight Rating which qualifies a pilot to fly at night.

Olateru also said that the aircraft Suntai was flying, was not registered with any Airline company or the Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO).

He therefore urged the NCAA to be more thorough in carrying out its regulatory activities.

On October 25, 2012, Suntai was piloting a Cessna 208 aircraft with some of his aides on board when the plane crashed in Yola, the Adamawa state capital. He was initially rushed to the Yola Specialist Hospital but was later moved to the Federal Medical Centre in Yola, from where he was flown in an air ambulance to the National Hospital, Abuja, and then to Germany.

Months later, in March 2013, Suntai was transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, the United States of America.

In July 2013, Iliya Dasat, one of the aides that were with Suntai during the crash, returned to the country after being discharged from a German hospital, and a month later, on August 25, 2013, Suntai returned to the country amid impeachment threats as there were doubts that he was fit enough to continue in office.

It soon became obvious, however, that Suntai was not healthy enough even to live in Nigeria, much less continue as the Governor of Taraba State, hence he was flown abroad again for continued treatment, while his deputy, Garba Umar, continued as Acting Governor.

Suntai died in a hospital in Houston, Florida, in the United States on June 28, 2017.

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