THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Monday 17 December 2012
Last update 17 December 2012 2:09 am
LAGOS, Nigeria: A navy helicopter crashed Saturday in the country'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 ruling party 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 People's Democratic Party's statement described Yakowa's death as a “colossal loss.”
The statement said the former national security adviser, General Andrew Azazi, also died in the crash. Azazi was fired in June amid growing sectarian violence in Nigeria, but maintained close ties with the government.
Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, said four other bodies had been found, but he could not immediately give their identities.
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 that 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.