By YINKA IBUKUN
A navy helicopter crashed Saturday in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, killing a state governor and five other people, in the latest air disaster to hit Africa’s most populous nation, officials said.
Nigeria’s presidency said in a statement that the governor of the central Nigerian state of Kaduna, Patrick Yakowa, died in the helicopter crash in Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta.
The former national security adviser, General Andrew Azazi, also died in the crash, the statement said. Azazi was fired in June amid growing sectarian violence in Nigeria, but maintained close ties with the government. The other victims were aides to Yakowa and Azazi and the two helicopter pilots, it said.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, said in a statement that their loss was “extremely painful to the entire nation.”
He said the president had ordered an investigation to determine the cause of the crash.
The crash occurred at about 3:30 p.m. after the navy helicopter took off from the village of Okoroba in Bayelsa state where officials had gathered to attend the burial of the father of a presidential aide, said Commodore Kabir Aliyu. He said the helicopter was headed for Nigeria’s oil capital of Port Harcourt when it crashed in the Nembe area of Bayelsa state.
Aviation disasters remain common in Nigeria, despite efforts in recent years to improve air safety.
In October, a plane made a crash landing in central Nigeria. A state governor and five others sustained injuries but survived.
In June, a Dana Air MD-83 passenger plane crashed into a neighborhood in the commercial capital of Lagos, killing 153 people onboard and at least 10 people on the ground. It was Nigeria’s worst air crash in nearly two decades.
In March, a police helicopter carrying a high-ranking police official crashed in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing four people.