Ethiopian Airlines Again! Obasanjo, 393 Others, Escape Plane Crash

Olusegun Obasanjo

Today, as President Muhammadu Buhari was being sworn in as Prsident of Nigeria for another term of four years at Eagle Square, Abuja, an event attended by some former heads of state, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who did not attend, perhaps because of an international engagement, escaped what could have ended as a plane crash in Lagos.

Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief that the celebrations of today and the handing over ceremonies in many states of the federation, did not wear a sombre colour, were the worst to have happened. Not a few thanked God that the country has no reason to fly its flag at half mast.

According to NAN, the ex-president was among the 393 passengers who were on board an aircraft that found it difficult to land at Murtala Muhammed International airport in Lagos.

The Ethiopian Airlines aircraft, ET-901, had departed the Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, at 9:10am, Ethiopian time (7am Nigerian time). Professor Pius Adesanmi, a Nigerian but Canada based academic at Caletton University,  died in an Ethiopian Airline plane recently.

Ethiopian Airline plane

A NAN correspondent, who was among the passengers, said the almost 5-hour flight from the Ethiopian capital to Lagos had been smooth until the pilot attempted to land at the Murtala Muhammed International airport.

Rather than landing on the first touch line of the runway, the pilot overshot it, owing to rain and heavy wind, landing on the third touchline.

On realising this, the pilot quickly manouvered the plane back on air, flying out of the Lagos airport.

After hovering around between Lagos and areas suspected to be in Ogun, causing panic among passengers and crew members, the plane landed in Lagos airport, some 20 minutes after the initial false landing.

The atmosphere in the air bus upon landing was replica of what is obtainable in some Nigerian worship centers, as many passengers broke out into worship songs and clapping, while some fell to their knees in prayer.

Otori Jimoh Otan, duty manager and chief customer service (Nigeria) of the airline, told NAN that if the pilot had continued taxing down after landing on the third touch line, he would have overshot the runway.

“But this is an experienced pilot. He realised this immediately. Fortunately, the distance between when he realised the situation still permitted him to take off and renegotiate landing,” Otori said.

He added that the incident was not out of place, while confirming that the wind obscured the pilot’s vision.

Otori also disclosed that most of the aircraft that flew out of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport had to fly against the mid day heavy wind.

“These things happen. That is where the sophistication of the aircraft and experience of the cabin crew members come in,” he said.

“The aircraft is one of the best you can have around and we are fortunate to have pilots who know their onions ” he said.

Obasanjo had attended a Stakeholders Dialogue on Continental Trade and Strengthening Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in Ethiopia.

The programme ended on Tuesday.

Among the prominent persons on board the aircraft were Ayoola Olukanni, director-general, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Samson Tunde Adebayo, director of ports inspection, National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC).