Retired Major General Danjuma Ali-Keffi, former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, has raised serious concerns about the fatal air crash that claimed the life of former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, and 11 other senior military officers.
In an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Ali-Keffi contends that the crash is intricately linked to terror financiers, urging President Bola Tinubu to launch an immediate investigation into the incident.
Ali-Keffi, who expressed his reservations about the official investigation, alleges a deliberate suppression of critical details surrounding the crash.
He emphasized that the full report of the investigation has not been disclosed to the public, adding an air of suspicion to the circumstances leading up to the tragic incident.
The retired general asserts that Attahiru was pivotal in formulating strategies to eradicate terrorism in Northern Nigeria.
Ali-Keffi contends that the late army chief’s efforts to tackle terrorism extended to exposing and neutralizing terror financiers.
In a detailed account of the events leading to the crash, Ali-Keffi raises questions about the abrupt changes in the scheduled trip, alterations in the choice of aircraft, and modifications in the landing airport.
He points to a sequence of unusual events, including the aircraft’s descent in stormy weather, a delayed departure, and an ear-shattering explosion before the crash, casting doubt on the official narrative.
Ali-Keffi explained, “About 2100 hrs on Thursday 20 May 2021, I spoke on phone with the Chief of Staff (COS) to the late COAS regarding their impending trip to Kaduna the following day (21 May 2021).
I had earlier spoken with General Attahiru on the same issue. We ended our conversation on the note that the late COAS and entourage would come by flight at about 1000 hrs the following day.
“About 0630 hrs the following morning, I called the COS to the late COAS to confirm if their travel plan was as we discussed the night before, as I needed to make arrangements for the Mosque that the COAS would attend Jummu’at (Friday) prayers.
“The COS informed me that there was a change of plan. He said after we finished speaking last night, they received a message that the late COAS was to attend a meeting either at the Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD) office or at the Presidential Villa at about 1000 hrs on Friday 21 May 2021 and that the late COAS was to attend in person and not send a representative.
“It is important to note that the late COAS’ trip to Kaduna was part of his visit to Zaria to attend the Passing Out Parade at the Depot NA slated for Saturday 22 May 2021.
“It is worth noting that the movement of service chiefs out of station (Abuja) is with the prior knowledge of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the Honourable Minister of Defence (HMOD), and the presidency.
“So, why was a meeting scheduled for about the same time that the late COAS was to have departed for (or arrived) Kaduna and why the insistence that he (COAS) should not be represented?
“In any case, the COS informed me that in view of the meeting, they would depart the Flag House (official residence of the COAS) at about 1530 hrs (after attending the meeting and also after the Jummu’ at prayers) for the airport.
“They expected to arrive the airport at about 1600 hrs, board the aircraft at about 1610 – 1615 hrs and depart for Kaduna. At about 1600 hrs, I was informed that they had arrived the Presidential Wing of the Airport. I then set off from the Stallion House (official residence of the GOC) with my entourage in a convoy and arrived the Air Force Base at about 1615 hrs.
“For reasons that I cannot understand till today, the flight was delayed for over an hour and did not take off until 1730 hrs or there about. The reason for the delay, as I was informed, was that there was issue with the aircraft that was initially assigned for the mission (to convey the COAS and his entourage) and that it had to be changed.”
Ali-Keffi also disclosed, “Meantime, there was a meteorological alert that Kaduna airspace was going to experience heavy rainfall accompanied with the storm (wind shear), and it was advised. Already, the cloud had formed in Kaduna, which was visible to us at the airport.
“As a matter of fact, the cloud was so thick, which was indicative of a massive storm. I began to nurse doubts about the flight. At some point, I voiced my doubts to Air Commodore Iyamu and Air Commodore Ilo, who were with me to receive the COAS.
“I even suggested that they should advise Abuja of weather conditions with a view to having the flight cancelled. At that point, I was informed that the aircraft was airborne (at about 1745 hrs). I became concerned as to whether the aircraft would be able to land at the airport in such a heavy rainfall, storm (the rain had started falling then).
“Thus, I was not surprised when Air Commodore Ilo informed me that we had go to the Civil (International Airport) as the NAF runway was not long enough to enable the aircraft land under the atrocious weather condition. We then set off for the International Airport but at a snail speed due to the heavy rainfall, which was accompanied with shale (ice particles).”
The former GOC said, “When we got to the vicinity of the airport, there was a thunderous sound, which I thought was the sound of thunder. We had earlier cited what I believed was the aircraft descending to land on the runway. When we turned the bend to enter the tarmac, the thought on my mind was that the aircraft had touched down and was taxing to the parking area.
“I couldn’t see any aircraft on the runway. I frantically looked around, and by the far side of the runway, there was a fireball. It was the aircraft conveying General Attahiru! We got out the vehicles, crossed the runway and approached the burning aircraft. Fire fighters were on hand to put out the blaze. At some point we had to pull back due to the fear of exploding cylinders.
“We later recovered the corpses of the 10 passengers on board the ill-fated plane far from where the plane wreckage was. Apparently, their bodies, which were on fire, were flung from the aircraft before it came down (already in flames). Furthermore, the aircraft (or what was left of it), at least what I could recollect, was on a relatively flat grassland.
“There was no crater. This was indicative of a mid-air explosion. So, what caused the aircraft to explode? I wonder what the Air Safety and Accident Investigation Bureau report says about the incident.”
Ali-Keffi further queried, “Was the flight deliberately delayed in order to be caught up in the rainstorm? Was the aircraft sabotaged, which caused it to explode mid-air? Was the explosion caused by explosives? Was a bomb planted in the aircraft or contained in a parcel, which a passenger unknowingly (or knowingly) carried?”
Guinean Military Junta Dissolves Government, Seals Country’s Borders
Guinea’s military junta, which took power through a coup in September 2021, has officially dissolved the government, as announced via a presidential decree read on state TV by the presidency’s Secretary General, Brig Gen Amara Camara.
The announcement was not followed by details regarding the rationale of this dissolution, or the timeline for establishing a new government.
As part of the dissolution, ministers in the now-dissolved government have been instructed to surrender their passports and official vehicles, and also given directives for their bank accounts to be frozen.
The junta has also directed security agencies to “seal” all of Guinea’s borders until the complete handover of government ministries to the junta.
According to Camara, during the interim period until a new government is appointed, lower-level officials will manage state ministries.
The dissolved government, led by Prime Minister Bernard Goumou, was appointed by coup leader Mamady Doumbouya, who led Guinea’s armed forces in overthrowing elected President Alpha Condé in September 2021. The coup came after a series of protests against Condé’s controversial bid for a third term.
Guinea, as well as several other countries in West and central Africa, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon, have experienced coups in recent years. These coups have faced strong condemnation from West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS, the African Union, and the UN.
The junta and ECOWAS had earlier set a 24-month transition period, and Guinea is expected to hold elections to restore democratic rule within 10 months, as the transition period comes to an end.
Atiku’s Aide Accuses Tinubu’s Govt of Diverting Funds Through Fake Petrol Subsidy
Phrank Shaibu, a Special Assistant on Public Communication to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has alleged that the refusal of the Federal government to react to recent reports on the return of petrol subsidy shows that public funds have started going into private pockets.
Shaibu made the allegation through a statement while reacting to reports by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the Nigerian government has begun paying petrol subsidy again.
According to media reports, monthly subsidy payment is nearly N1 trillion, far in excess of exceeds the amount paid monthly by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Reacting to the allegation, Shaibu said it has become clear that one of the reasons the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has not been paying the required amount of money into the government’s account is because monies are being diverted under an opaque and secret subsidy regime.
He alleged: “Tinubu has been boasting at every economic forum that he deserves to be in the Guinness Book of records for removing petrol subsidy.
“He even said before ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ in New York last September that the ‘corrupt subsidy’ regime and FX issues had been resolved.
“But as every other thing relating to Tinubu, this has turned out to be another lie from the pit of hell. Currently, the exchange rate based on what the Central Bank of Nigeria recommended to the Nigeria Customs Service is N1515/$1.
“Hence diesel price is now over N1,200 but petrol is still selling for between N600 and N700.
“Nigeria is the only country in the world where such disparity between diesel and petrol exists. It has become obvious that petrol subsidy has returned through the backdoor.
“With the return of petrol subsidy, oil marketers have opted out and that is why the NNPC has returned to being the sole importer of petrol once more and has the temerity to be announcing that it will not increase petrol cost regardless of the international price of crude oil and the exchange rate.
“To be clear, petrol subsidy in itself is not a bad thing when it is done transparently.”
Shaibu added: “Former CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, expressed shock last month that NNPC was still not remitting FX into government’s accounts.
“It is now obvious why this has been happening. Subsidy has returned but it is now being done in a corrupt and secret manner as funds are now being diverted into private pockets even worse than under Buhari. This is the Tinubu Lagos legacy from Lagos State.”
Shaibu said it was disappointing that the Finance Minister, Wale Edun; and CBN Governor, Yemi Cardoso, who both claimed to have gotten their appointments based on their expertise had failed to speak up but had continued to cover up the petrol subsidy.
He also alleged that the Tinubu government had continued to frustrate the takeoff of the Dangote refinery which would have at least reduced Nigeria’s FX demands.
“The media reported last week that lingering regulatory approvals have stalled Dangote Petrochemical Refinery’s plan to release aviation fuel (Jet A1) and diesel for sale in the Nigerian market.
“At the same time, Dangote refinery has been struggling to get the needed crude oil and has decided to import from the United States while the NNPC which has no business with monetary policy, committed Nigeria’s crude oil for a $3.3 billion Afreximbank loan ostensibly to stabilise the naira.
“It is obvious that Tinubu and his so-called economic team are quacks, charlatans who put their personal interest ahead of that of the country. With such Lilliputians at the helm of affairs, Nigeria’s economic woes are about to go from bad to worse,” Shaibu added.
UK Economy Slips into ‘Technical’ Recession
The United Kingdom slipped into a technical recession in the second half of last year after its economy registered two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, official figures have shown.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced through a statement on Thursday that Britain’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 0.3 percent in the last three months of 2023, after contracting 0.1 percent in the third quarter.
It meant that the economy entered a technical recession, as defined by two or more quarters in a row of falling GDP.
It marked the first time the UK had entered recession since the first half of 2020 when the initial COVID-19 lockdown sent the country’s economy plunging into reverse.
The figures dealt a blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had promised to grow the economy as one of his five priorities.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said inflation and high-interest rates were behind the output fall but insisted the economy was turning a corner.
He said: “While interest rates are high so the Bank of England can bring inflation down low growth is not a surprise.
“But there are signs the British economy is turning a corner; forecasters agree that growth will strengthen over the next few years.
“Wages are rising faster than prices; mortgage rates are down and unemployment remains low.
“Although times are still tough for many families, we must stick to the plan of cutting taxes on work and business to build a stronger economy.”
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the Prime Minister’s promise to grow the economy was in tatters.
“The Prime Minister can no longer claim credibly that his plan is working or that he has turned the corner on more than 14 years of economic decline under the Conservatives that has left Britain worse off.
“This is Rishi Sunak’s recession and the news will be deeply worrying for families and businesses across Britain,’’ he said.