Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

One terrorist attack, one plane crash with the evidence pointing to serious criminal negligence and one ‘accident’ due to an incompetent crane driver or malpractice.

Just two days into the week and Nigeria is facing its third disaster. It started Sunday morning with yet another Boko Haram suicide bomb attack against a church. The numbers killed varies between 12 and 15 and many more injured at the Living Faith Church in Bauchi. [ BellaNaija - "> The bombings have become so normalised that they hardly warrant more than a few tweets and a column in the daily papers. The government is weak and has lost all credibility and direction, like being set afloat in the Atlantic on a flimsy raft.

By Sunday evening the country was once again in shock. At around 3.45 -4pm Dana Air Flight 992 from Abuja to Lagos crashed into a high density neighbourhood just outside Murtala Muhammed airport killing all 153 on board.
11 miles from the airport, the crew reported they had lost power in both engines. The plane proceeded in the direction of the landing runway, clipped a power line and crashed on top of a residential building some 1500 meters from the runway. The aircraft was 22 years old and previously belonged to Alaska Air. We are still waiting for the numbers of dead killed on the ground plus the many injured.

As always when there is a crisis in Nigeria, Nigeria’s Twittersphere threw itself into free fall mode with all caution discarded and the noise levels reach deafening proportions. Tweeps moved between despair, disparaging self-hate, crying for God’s help and slightly patriotic calls to stand as one. What kind of a country? How does one deal with a terrible disaster in an environment lacking in basic amenities and services - roads, first responders, hospitals, lack of electricity, water? What a shambles, corruption, ineptitude, resilience, hope? How do we make sense of ourselves and our predicament...

Chxta ‏@Chxta
Tomorrow, we will wake and forget today's tragedy. Our govt too will forget. We will say a prayer and move on... We always do!

Chxta ‏@Chxta
Aside from "Let us pray" and "May God help us", is there any other thing that the people of #Nigeria do when disaster strikes?

Yes, they can play the blame game. @SugaBelly was quick on the mark when she put the blame squarely on Indians, tweeting...

Sugabelly ‏@sugabelly Nigerians can like to stop allowing Indians with questionable motives to be commanding them up and down - !/sugabelly
Sugabelly ‏@sugabelly

@bob_ij apparently the Dana staff complained that the plane was bad but the Indian management forced them to fly it anyway

However, there were enough cries of foul for the conversation to end quickly.
"@africainmotion: Apparently a lot of passengers were still alive even by Sunday night when we were saying ..."

"@Chicasa: Alvana had time to send an sms to her brother before the plane leapt into flames. Some could have been rescued :-( #DanaAirCrash"

"@Chicasa: Alvana said in the sms "Take strength in the Lord. Few minutes from now, I'll be going to meet the Lord." Amen sweetie. Rest In Peace."

The truth is as Teju Cole points out:

Teju Cole ‏@tejucole
Bad things can happen anywhere. Fate is cruel. But in Nigeria, corruption, carelessness, and lack of professionalism do fate's cruel work.

Teju Cole ‏@tejucole
Cutting corners, praying, ignoring statistics and science, hoping for the best, giving thanks for narrow escapes. It's no way to live.

Add to that shouting, complaining and calling on God is nothing but hot air. We must recognise our complicity in maintaining the sewers of corruption which have become so normalised that people don't even recognise their own participation. Emeka Okafor reminds us of this truth when he recalls two plane crashes in 2005 in which 117 [BelleView"> and 103 [Sosoliso"> people died including 75 school children. There were actually 8 plane crashes in 2005 and the last 4 years have seen the best record in the country’s history.

“Ike Anya points the finger of blame at all Nigerians for the recent airplane crash in Nigeria, "...And if perhaps you are thinking - I am abroad, I am not involved - I say to you: “It is a lie, you too are culpable”. For each time we condoned the kleptomania and corruption of our leaders and our society, for each time we turned our backs on Nigeria, justifying our decisions to ourselves - my children are still young; I need to finish my degree; my family needs the money I’m sending back - we too are responsible. For each time you saved up all year, maxing your credit cards to the limit to go back home and live lavishly for a little while, boosting the asinine materialistic culture that thrives there, ignoring the poverty around, you are culpable..." [ ">

Within hours of the crash tweeps were broadcasting the flight manifesto which had been published on a few websites. I am not sure how ethical or legal it is to publish before informing the next of kin but soon personal obituaries began to appear on Twitter and Facebook. The truth is as with any disaster there isn't much one can say. Everyone is sorry, everyone is variably devastated / sad, shocked / horrified. What would have previously been a self-indulgent conversation between a few people, in the age of Twitter becomes a public display of repetitive utterings as everyone feels compelled to say something even though its the same as everyone else. Which is why I felt Chikere’s frustration and why Somi’s Facebook status was so moving, genuine and much needed....

It's difficult not to get/be ANGRY this morning.. The more#DanaAirCrash tweets I read, the more irate I get. And then what?

Somi - AfroJazz singer ...................“rest in peace Duni
i met a young, bright, outgoing, and beautiful woman named duni last week in a lagos wine bar. we talked about lagos living, real estate, and the challenges of moving back to africa after years in the west. she was lovely and we didn't bother to exchange details as i figured we'd surely connect/meet another time through our mutual friends. today, it was reported that 153 people died on a flight from the abuja to lagos. duni was on that plane. i did not know her well, but i wish her and her family peace. a tragic reminder not to take any day, any moment, any connection for granted”

Writing on “Nigerians Talk” Zainab Usman goes some way to explain the massive display of mourning, anger, fear and frustration at “the helplessness” we feel as we watch and watch! [ ">

“However, even before news of the plane crash filtered in, there was already a build up of misery and helplessness at how people are bombed, butchered and murdered with impunity, at how the victims and their families have little hope for justice, how perpetrators are not likely to be apprehended or successfully prosecuted and how ordinary Nigerians cannot shake off the feeling of being on a conveyor belt of sorts in a slaughter house assembly line headed towards a certain demise. Thus as the news of the tragic plane crash along with the gory pictures flowed in, the country was swiftly enveloped in nationwide horror, grief and sorrow such that President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a 3-day national mourning period couldn’t have been more timely.”

By Tuesday we had reached a trilogy of disasters when in Benin City, a building under construction collapsed trapping many of the workers. Too sum up the week so far. One terrorist attack; one plane crash with the evidence pointing to serious criminal negligence; and one ‘accident’ due to an incompetent crane driver or alternatively malpractice. And Nigeria continues in mourning with millions asking God for mercy and the inevitable pastor who predicted the plane crash, calling on his flock to pray, pray - the bible in one hand and some kind of magic in the other. Amidst this madness, some sanity emerges in the words of Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo who asks, what is the point? He like me is baffled as to why people pray for the dead. I might add here MY only childhood experience of church and religious matters was via school - my family were / are unbelievers.

“After many years of being cajoled and dragged and mandated to go to church, one of the few things I learned was that once you die, you are dead. Your report card is sealed. Nothing can change it. I was taught that after death what comes next is judgment. It doesn’t matter if you cool off a little bit in Purgatory. Your next court appearance after death is on Judgment Day.”

I believe the only use of mourning after death is for the living to reflect on their lives. It is okay to recall the life of the dead and the impact the dead made in the lives of the living. But as far as influencing what happens when the dead gets to the Great Beyond, I believe that is what is called ‘medicine after death.” If there are people who need prayers after a death, it is the living and not the dead. [ ">

Okonkwo asks instead of prayers we the people need to take concrete steps to ensure that the government oversees aviation; pilots refuse to fly unworthy planes; technicians do their jobs diligently and well for the rest of us, we should act as watchdogs and if necessary stop that plane from flying. Okonkwo also gives us a reality check such as the numbers of people dying on the roads in Nigeria everyday could well be equivalent to a plane crash a day - but we don’t know because there are no accurate figures; the numbers dying from childbirth, or children dying from lack of access to medical care - all these uncalled for deaths due to government negligence or one form or the other. And I might add people’s indifference to the suffering of others since hardly anyone is particularly concerned about these unrecorded and unseen daily unavoidable deaths!

I am fairly confident in saying that most regular flyers in Nigeria have an airline story to tell. I have a few of my own - both instances due to overcrowding. Yes, overcrowding on a plane is where there are more passengers than seats so flight attendants sit in the loo and passengers bunk up in the cockpit. One of my favorite Nigerian blogs ‘Thy Glory O Nigeria” by Adeola Aderounmu reminds us that not just Nigeria, but the whole continent has become a dumping ground for other people’s waste including old aircraft, ships and recently trains “abandoned in Canada and unveiled in Nigeria” in the so called progressive state of Lagos[ ">.

Dana Air have now been grounded and their license suspended. They will undergo a “systems check” of all their aircraft, maintenance procedures, personnel and accounts. Channels TV reported an employee of Dana Air who claims the plane was faulty on the first leg of its flight - Lagos - Calabar - but the management had insisted the plane continue with passengers to Abuja

“According to the official, “the plane has been giving faults for a very long time. There was a case when it was on the ground in Uyo for over six hours, because of delayed flight, it had a bolt. And then in Abuja it happened a few days ago, then some people went with the aircraft but they could not come back, because it had a fault there and it couldn’t leave Abuja.”
“The same engineers that fixed it and then they sent crew to bring it with passengers to Lagos.”

Confirming that the plane that crashed on Sunday was not supposed to leave Lagos at all, the Dana official stated that “yesterday, it (Dana Air Flight 0992) was not supposed to leave Lagos at all, but it left and then got to Calabar, gave fault and it was fixed and then they took it to Abuja, when they should have returned to Lagos but because they didn’t want to part with the little money they will make, they took it to Abuja, loaded full passengers, and then it couldn’t get to Lagos. ” [ ">

“My Pen and My Paper published Dana Air’s defence as the management insist there was nothing wrong with the plane. The plane had already made three flights on the Sunday and was returning to Lagos for the last flight of the day. At this point in time the possibility of Dana Air being innocent is hard to believe. Whatever the reasons behind the crash, Nigerians understandably have no faith in the aviation industry or the government who are supposed to monitor and insist international standards are complied with. We the people hope the Nigerian government and in particular the Ministry of Aviation will dig deep and seek the truth without stepping into a sewer. Bodies are still being discovered and removed to the morgue for identification.

For a timeline of Nigeria’s air crashes between 1969 and 2012, see


* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!
* Sokari Ekine blogs at Blacklooks.

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.