US embassy cable - 02ABUJA1910


Identifier: 02ABUJA1910
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA1910 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-06-25 15:49:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001910 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2007 
REF: A. ABUJA 1429 
     B. ABUJA 1486 
1. (C) Summary. Seven weeks after the May 4 crash of an EAS 
BAC 1-11 in Kano, the GON response has lost momentum. NTSB 
investigator Jones indicated official investigation was 
substandard and likely to produce inaccurate results. 
Aviation Minister Chikwe continues to change personnel and 
bruit new policies, more out of concern to manage political 
fallout than to find the truth. Some of these changes seem 
positive, but we do not expect most to be significant. Much 
water has passed under the bridge, so the true causes of the 
May 4 crash may remain unknown. We should urge the GON to 
fund oversight properly and to give its oversight body 
greater independence. End Summary. 
2. (U) Minister of Aviation Dr. Kema Chikwe fired over 20 
officials in the wake of the May 4 crash at Kano (Ref. A) of 
a BAC 1-11 operated by Executive Air Services (EAS).  The 
Director General and Director of Airworthiness of the 
Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Directors of 
Engineering and Administration of the Federal Airports 
Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and two Directors of Air Traffic 
Services from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) 
were among the those receiving pink slips.  Media reports 
suggest others may be on the way. 
3. (U) The Minister has also promised to replace all flight 
instructors at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology 
(NCAT) in Zaria with foreign experts, claiming the current 
instructors are responsible for the failure of NCAT to 
graduate students. 
4. (U) Chikwe has also proposed banning all single aircraft 
airline companies; they will have the option of merging with 
other companies or going out of business. Complaining that 
aircraft vendors in Miami were selling unfit aircraft at low 
cost to Nigerian airlines, she has proposed that Nigerian 
buyers obtain a certificate of airworthiness from countries 
of origin before sales can be completed. Finally the Minister 
has proposed reducing the number of licenses for aircraft 
maintenance organizations to 20. 
5. (C) Comment: The actions taken by Chikwe are a mixed bag. 
Banning single aircraft companies could prove useful, but 
only if proper maintenance regimes are instituted for the 
remaining airlines. However, Assistant Director Remi Faminu, 
of the Ministry of Aviation's Accident Investigation Bureau 
(AIB), believes operators with one craft fleets will lease 
additional craft as cheaply as possible in order to meet the 
new minimum requirements.  If so, this new regulation has the 
potential to increase rather than decrease the number of 
marginal air carriers. Faminu contends the proposal to reduce 
the number of maintenance organizations is unrealistic. All 
operators have their own maintenance crews; combining them 
would be unworkable. Past attempts at similar remedies have 
6. (C) Faminu also labeled the firings as purely political. 
The crash gave Chikwe the opportunity to restructure the 
affected agencies with fewer accusations than would have been 
leveled under other circumstances.  According to Faminu, the 
proposal to staff the NCAT faculty with foreign experts to 
train pilots is a good one, provided the college can pay 
market salaries.  According to Faminu one major reason for 
the failure of the flight school is the high turnover of 
instructors.  Nigerian instructors are paid on the Federal 
compensation scale. They quickly leave NCAT when offered 
higher paying piloting jobs in the private sector. Finally, 
evaluating aircraft at the time of sale and guaranteeing 
their airworthiness is an important step.  However, a regime 
requiring proper maintenance after purchase is equally 
7. (C) So far only one of the crashed plane's "black boxes" 
has been found.  The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) is still 
missing. Dennis Jones, of the National Transportation Safety 
Board (NTSB), who visited Nigeria May 16-28, accompanied 
POLCOUNS to a May 20 meeting with Minister Chikwe. She 
claimed the CVR had been stolen from the crash site.  Chikwe 
also asserted that an engine on the crashed plane had been 
clandestinely changed during a holiday with no oversight or 
8.  (U) In the week after the crash, three separate panels 
were announced to investigate the crash.  Minister Chikwe 
proposed a twelve-member panel, while the House and the 
Senate in the National Assembly established  separate 
investigatory committees.  These committees were given 
impractical mandates to complete their investigations in two 
or three weeks.  So far the performance of the committees has 
been uninspiring. For example the Senate committee used its 
forum to condemn the conditions of Nigeria's airports which 
seemed to be more an attempt by some Senators to get 
advantageous press coverage while trying to roll the 
political pork barrel their way. 
9. (C) Jones, accompanied by Poloff and Econoff, met Director 
K.K.O. Sagoe, Assistant Director Remi Faminu and Mr. C.O. 
Awogbami of the AIB May 23. The AIB is the Nigerian 
counterpart to the NTSB.  The Nigerian investigators 
complained that the three above-mentioned panels were 
composed of non-professionals who were reaching unreliable 
conclusions from erroneous assumptions.  The National 
Assembly committees, they believe, are using the tragedy as 
an opportunity to score political points with their 
constituencies.  Even Chikwe's committee, they claim, did not 
have sufficient expertise. They also claimed that it was 
improper for her to constitute such a panel; under Nigerian 
law, they said, only the Justice Minister can establish such 
a panel. Moreover, the Justice Minister must wait until after 
the AIB investigation is completed. 
10. (C) While aspersing the special investigations, the AIB's 
performance has not been exemplary.  Faminu is leading the 
investigation. The AIB team gave us the following preliminary 
report:  The BAC1-11 aircraft traversed the 2600m runway, the 
60m of overrun area and an additional unpaved area of 150 
meters prior to taking off. This is indicative of low 
airspeed and points to the likelihood that the aircraft was 
near stall from the time it took off. The plane most likely 
went into a deep stall, which on the BAC1-11 can only be 
recovered by descending nose down for several thousand feet. 
The aircraft never reached an altitude of greater than a few 
hundred feet. Sagoe examined the wreckage, and his 
preliminary finding is that one engine failed.  This 
assessment is based on the way the engines were damaged and 
the difference in the damage to the two engines. 
11. (C) Faminu related some of the difficulties AIB faced in 
attempting to conduct a thorough investigation. 
Investigators were unable to survey the crash scene on May 4 
because of mobs surrounding the site. Sagoe stated that the 
first officials at the scene were beaten by the angry mob. 
Consequently Faminu was unable to make diagrams or take 
pictures of the initial crash scene. Since much of the crash 
site was altered before the investigators could examine it, 
crucial indicators were lost. Faminu hopes the Digital Flight 
Data Recorder (DFDR) along with cargo weight and exact 
readouts of weather conditions will reveal the information 
necessary to help determine what happened.  The Ministry does 
not have the necessary equipment to interpret the recorder 
data and will likely send it to the UK. Faminu stated in a 
June 12 conversation that arrangements had been made to send 
the DFDR to England and that he expected to have results by 
the end of June. However, the DFDR had not been sent as of 
June 25. 
12. (U) Awogbami stated that recordings between the tower and 
cockpit contained no communication after clearance for 
takeoff was given.  Faminu was unaware if radar readings were 
available at the time of the crash. (Note: Media and Embassy 
sources indicate that the radar at the Kano Airport has not 
functioned for several years.  The investigators were either 
unaware of this or trying to save embarrassment by feigning 
ignorance. End Note) 
13. (C) The AIB, remains understaffed, under-funded and under 
political pressure to find a quick answer. Jones was 
concerned the political pressure might cause the AIB to 
perform only a superficial investigation, obscuring the real 
causes behind the crash. The initial work by AIB 
investigators has been disappointing.  AIB had no photos, or 
diagrams from the crash site. 
14. (C) Jones visited the Kano crash site and was able to 
view the wreckage that had been recovered. While noting  that 
many factors unique to this crash prevented a perfect 
investigation, Jones also noted the investigators had a 
surprisingly casual attitude. They lacked enthusiasm and 
failed to follow up on information.  For instance, no 
attempts at interviewing witnesses were made, and the chief 
investigator was uninterested in efforts to reconstruct the 
wreckage. Jones urged the investigators to have the data 
recorder read and expressed dismay that the investigation was 
being conducted without the vital information available from 
this source. 
15. (C) In Reftel B, Post supported Minister Chikwe's request 
for assistance investigating the crash.  After consulting 
with Dennis Jones and Kevin Sample of DOT, Post  recommended 
to Minister Chikwe that aviation expert Ron Montgomery serve 
on the crash investigation panel.    However on June 6, the 
Ministry asked that Montgomery delay his trip -- the  panel 
had been postponed indefinitely. Awodu said that the panel 
could not be established until completion of the AIB 
16. (C) Many hoped the May 4 crash would shake the GON of its 
lethargy regarding domestic air carriers.  Initially, the GON 
showed energy and said the right things.  However, recent 
signs indicate a flagging commitment.  This is all the more 
tragic since two major crashes have been barely averted, and 
another small crash, killing five, has taken place since the 
May 4 crash.  While impossible at this date to identify the 
real causes of the EAS crash, it is not difficult to identify 
weaknesses in the Nigerian Government's handling of this 
17. (C) Comment Continued: From all appearances, the Minister 
of Aviation is more concerned about managing the political 
fallout than in technical probity. Consequently, efforts to 
investigate the crash and to examine the flight safety 
standards of commercial carriers remains subject to political 
pressures.  We should continue to work with the Ministry in 
its overall modernization program, despite the flaws in its 
response to the crash. However, this incident underscores the 
need not only for better funding and training of the AIB but 
greater independence of the AIB from the Aviation Ministry 

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