Miscreants, popularly known as area boys, pounced on the Dana plane from Abuja to Lagos soon after it crashed, carting away valuables without regards to the dead
Some Nigerians were believed to have demonstrated lack of love and insensitivity towards the dead when Dana Air Flight 992 from Abuja to Lagos crashed in Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, recently. The crash and the subsequent explosion threw the area into a pandemonium. Confusion reigned at the crash site afterwards, as thousands of residents swarmed around the area trying to catch a glimpse of the scene. Rather than rescuing those who might be trapped in the wreckage, particularly the residents on ground, thousands of youths surged towards the wreckage, taking snapshots and recording the scene with their phones. Ironically, there was so much excitement in the air as if it was some kind of carnival.
When the magazine arrived at the scene about an hour after the crash, hundreds of young people were seen on top of the roof of the damaged warehouse and, indeed, all elevated platforms within the area, from rooftops, fences and balconies of adjoining buildings, trying frantically to get a better view of the wreckage. As the number of people around increased, it became clear that miscreants, popularly called area boys, had invaded the crash scene purposely to loot. Under the pretext of helping out with rescue operations, hoodlums, according to a 50-year-old resident who declined to be mentioned, sought to gain financially from the disaster. “The looting started right away,” said Tunji Malomo, another resident.
Apart from feasting on the wreckage of the plane, the hoodlums serially looted the remains of a six-bedroom duplex, a warehouse containing educational materials, a furniture factory, a two-storey residential building and a nearby church, that were affected by the plane crash.
The crash has once again highlighted the absence of any form of emergency preparedness. In other climes, within minutes of an emergency situation, the area affected would be cordoned off, to pave way for rescue operations. Though security and rescue workers responded promptly by getting to the scene within reasonable time, there was clearly no one in charge, as the officials present did not know what to do and the crowd took liberty and turned the scene into a carnival ground. Besides, the firefighters who rushed to the scene to put off the fire did not have enough water. They just parked helplessly at the scene after trying but failing to stop the raging inferno.
At a point, mobile police officers started chasing away people from the scene. They used rubber whips, their fists and even threw missiles at the crowd. But the crowd fought back, equally throwing missiles at the policemen. This development almost caused a stampede. In the end, it was obvious that the strong-arm tactics would compound the situation and the policemen had to give up the idea entirely. The area also plunged into all-out pandemonium when a helicopter tried to land, splashing ashes and light debris on the already pensive crowd.
It was, indeed, lamentable that rescue operations started the day after the plane crash. Security operatives had cordoned off the area at dawn, giving unimpeded access of the crash site to rescue workers. Meshach Oroye, a resident who later joined the rescue team as a volunteer firefighter, said rescue efforts had to be shelved to tackle the flame. But the team had a busy day on Monday, removing charred remains of the dead, which were immediately put in body bags, from the wreckage. Huge construction cranes had moved in to shift the scattered, twisted pieces of the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 plane where buildings once stood. Gone were the billowing plumes of black smoke that had filled the air after the crash. But the wreckage was still smouldering.
Like everyone who lives on the flight path and close to the airport, the people in the neighbourhood are used to seeing planes flying low overhead. But it was immediately obvious that something was wrong with the Dana Air McDouglas 83 aircraft that was noticed a few minutes before it crashed in June 3. According to eyewitnesses, the plane smoked profusely and gradually lost altitude. Gift Onibo, 23, an eyewitness, said, “I just saw the plane going down and down and finally crashed."
Since the crash, Nigerians have been overwhelmed with tales of people who lost their lives, as well as those who escaped death. Some persons were miraculously snatched away from the jaws of death by a curious twist of events that fateful Sunday afternoon, suggesting that the notion of divine providence is a reality. That was the case of three children who were sent on errands by their parents just before the crash took place. But their father, Jeremiah Okechukwu, a graduate who rode Okada part time, was in the bathroom taking his bath, while their mother, Josephine, was plaiting the hair of the family’s last born, Ngozi, in the living room when the unexpected happened. The children returned only to find that their home had been reduced to rubbles and their parents dead.
Daniel Omowunmi, who owns one of the four houses destroyed by the plane crash, was also saved by providence. Omowunmi, a pastor with Winners’ Chapel and businessman, was still on his way back from church with his wife, mother, three children and two other relatives, when the ill-fated plane crashed into his six-bedroom duplex. The Omowunmis had left for church early in the morning and stayed through the four services at Canaanland, Ota, Ogun State.
Daniel Odika, a contract staff with the British American Tobacco Company and Paul Apel, a filmmaker, should also consider themselves fortunate. Odika, 32, who hails from Imo State, resides in the two-storey building where the Dana plane crashed into, was on afternoon shift on the fateful Sunday and had left home about two hours before the plane crashed into his flat. “I just give the glory to God for everything because in all situations we must thank Him,” Odika who was still in shock told the magazine. He said the three relatives living with him, Isaiah Odika, Theophilus Okeke and another fellow who simply identified himself as Chigozie, are equally alive.
When Apel missed the Dana flight in Abuja, he was very angry because he was desperate to get to Lagos for an appointment. His colleague who was waiting for him in Lagos kept calling him and that must have put him under tremendous pressure. Apel was held up somewhere in Abuja, waiting to collect money from a client and therefore got to the airport only to see the Dana plane taking off. He was still at the airport, waiting for a 6.30pm flight when he received the news that the Dana plane had crashed.
Similarly, Ekarete Udoh, a newspaper columnist, equally missed boarding the ill-fated plane because Ini Akpabio, owner of Nanet Suites, Abuja, insisted on taking him out on Saturday night prior to the crash and so he woke up late (at midday) the following day. Udoh, who lives in New York, United States with his family, had planned to be at the airport at noon to purchase a ticket for the ill-fated flight; for he wanted to get to Lagos on time for an evening appointment. Curiously, the former Nigerian Television Authority, NTA staff, got to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja at last and saw Dana was still checking in, he pleaded with the officials of the airline to put him on the flight, but they couldn’t get a seat for him. “God used Ini Akpabio to save my life,” he noted.
This disastrous crash would no doubt put a question mark on the credibility of Dana Airlines, which had been considered to be a relatively safe and reasonably efficient domestic airline since it began operating in 2008. In particular, it had a reputation of keeping to its flight schedule. But the airline’s operating licence was withdrawn last week by the federal government, pending the outcome of the investigations into the probable cause of the crash.