Nigeria: Taraba Governor, Suntai, Injured in Plane Crash

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Taraba State Governor, Mr. Danbaba Suntai, escaped death yesterday after a plane he was flying crashed in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

The governor, his aide-de-camp and chief security officer, who were also in the plane that took off from Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, and three others were seriously injured.

Suntai, who graduated as a pilot from the Aviation College in Zaria last year, was piloting the crashed plane. This would be the second time he is surviving a plane crash.

It was gathered that the plane, a Cessna 208, 5N-BMJ, owned by the state government, crashed at about 7.45 pm, near the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) depot, on the outskirts of Yola.

The governor, who was brought in unconscious, was first taken to Yola Specialist Hospital for treatment, but was later moved to the better-equipped Federal Medical Centre, Yola.

His Adamawa State counterpart, Admiral Murtala Nyako, was said to have visited him to ensure that he and others were getting the best medical attention possible.

Dr. Bala Saidu, a doctor at the Yola Specialist Hospital, told THISDAY that Suntai was in a critical condition when he was brought to the hospital.

On the governor’s chances of pulling through, he said it was too early to say what would happen.

However, sources in Yola informed THISDAY that the governor had regained consciousness last night following the efforts of the medical team to stabilise him.

The sources said that depending on his condition, he might be flown overseas today.

The governor, earlier in the day, had hosted the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, Hugo Ramos Minnes, who had paid him a courtesy visit before embarking on the trip.

As at the time of filing the report, the reason for the governor’s trip was still sketchy but THISDAY investigations revealed that he often flew to Yola, where he has a residence, with the plane.

There was pandemonium in Jalingo when the news of the crash filtered into the town as residents were thrown into mourning following reports that the governor had died in the crash.

A statement from the Ministry of Aviation said the aircraft had six persons, including the crew on board when it crashed.

It said the aircraft departed Jalingo for Yola and reported contact with the Yola control tower, but shortly before it landed, the pilot lost contact with the control tower, while efforts to radio the aircraft failed.

“A search and rescue was immediately activated and the site of incident located with all victims alive with various degrees of injuries. The victims have been evacuated to the hospital for treatment pending further investigation of the incident,” the statement, signed by the media aide to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Joe Obi, said.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metu, said it was shocked by the news of the accident.

“We received the news of the plane crash with shock. We are officially awaiting the news of the true position right now and we urge all our members in Taraba and Nigerians to pray for him,” it said.

With Suntai’s incapacitation, his deputy, Alhaji Garba Umar, who was sworn in on October 5, following the impeachment of Alhaji Sani Abubakar, is expected to take charge in the state.

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