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The COAS plane crash and its aftermath — Daily Times Nigeria

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By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

All serious nations celebrate, honour their armed forces. It is a long-held tradition. Even in primitive societies, the gallant defenders were always honoured especially if they died in battle.

The message or the subtext is to the living: if you die in service, we will give you a heroic burial and look after your family. A soldier’s life may sound romantic in the books. In real life, fighting in a battle is anything but romantic. It is rough. Even brutal sometimes. It necessarily involves death.

I had a cousin who abandoned Army Training in Teshie Ghana in the 1960s after his officers told him he was being trained to kill the enemy! Kill people? It was a ‘no-no’ to him. He later became a highly successful international civil servant.

For the military, their lives in battle can be summarized thus: I die, or you die, or someone is taken prisoner. It is this tradition that has given birth to immortalizing wartime heroes.

Of course, nobody joins the army to die. But death is one of the constant variables of being an armed fighter. A man who fears violence or death cannot be a soldier. Even a soldier of fortune knows that death could come at any time!

On Friday 21 May, an air force plane carrying the recently appointed Chief of Army Staff General Ibrahim Attahiru, some senior officers in the intelligence corps and men crashed in Kaduna. Investigations are ongoing.

We cannot say with any certainty what caused the crash. The weather was bad on that day. Landing was difficult, we are told in the Air Force Base. For this reason, the plane landed in the Kaduna Airport, crashed, and burst into flames. None of the ten passengers survived the crash.

Initial reports were conflicting. Persons who were not on the flight were reported to have boarded the plane. An old video clip surfaced on social media in which an eyewitness claimed to have seen two men jump off the troubled aircraft in a parachute. Of course, conspiracy theories developed immediately. The crash was sabotage! Dangerous nonsense if you ask me.

It was a sad day for the nation. A very sad day for the immediate families of the deceased. These were men who were alive one minute and were gone the next.

They probably had phoned family to announce their imminent arrival. Suddenly, there is a news flash and a wife, mother, son, daughter hears on radio or reads on social media that their loved ones had just died in an air crash while performing official duties.

There is something about death that unites humanity. No sensible human being one mocks the death of the other. It is a fate that we all will ultimately face.

The military was prompt in arranging for the funeral the next day. The Military Cemetery in Abuja played host to the victims. But the ceremony became a national embarrassment. The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces was absent.

One spokesperson explained that the President must be given a minimum of forty-eight hours’ notice before he can attend any funeral outside the Presidential Villa. The deeply profound inanities which some presidential spokespersons utter these days make a mockery of the Presidency.

As a retired military officer, the incumbent president understands or should understand the need for respect for the dead. The psychology of physical presence counts a lot in motivating the men in a time of war. The Vice President was also not at the burial. The President was represented by the Minister of Defence.

Most state officials stayed away from the funeral. As if this was not bad enough, the President’s representative goofed big time when he said during his speech: ‘I wish to express my HEARTLESS felt condolences’ to the families of the deceased! Was this a Freudian slip? Did government decide to be heartless?

That same day, while the Army was officially in mourning, the second son of Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, took a wife in Kano and most officials preferred to seek the good face of Malami. They shunned the burial. They showed their scant regard for the protocols of governance.

In the aftermath of the accident and burial, a deep analysis of the events once again showed the soft underbelly of state apathy and inefficiency. In a way, this is the story of Nigeria. No memory. No respect for institutions. No honour to the dead.

Elsewhere, a burial ceremony for a fallen Chief of Army Staff or indeed for soldiers who died while serving their country would be so well-attended and colourful that one would feel like dying for their country.

The burial site itself was a manual in disarray. We associate the military with precision, orderliness, even in a chaotic environment. War is chaotic. What makes an army win a battle is how effectively it organizes itself amidst disorder.

The Sitting arrangement was poor. There was no social distancing. What was the crowd of soldiers around the podium for? The atmosphere at the somber event did not show precision which the military as an establishment is known for.

Discipline is fundamental to military discipline. Military discipline is defined as ‘the state of order and obedience among personnel in a military organization and is characterized by the men’s prompt and willing responsiveness to orders and understanding compliance to regulation’.

George Washington wrote: ‘discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem all’. That discipline extends to fairness, equity, justice and justness in employment, deployment, promotion, and career advancement.

Any nation which toys with the universal principle of discipline in the armed forces has only succeeded in destroying the military.

The long-term effect of unfair and inexplicable political interference in the affairs of the military is what we are witnessing today. The broad goals of the army are not being met because of nepotism, and small-mindedness.

‘Discipline’ writes Jim Rohn ‘is the bridge between goals and accomplishment’. Politicians do not respect the military in Nigeria. Military men have also allowed themselves to be used by politicians. Senior officers have also become ‘militicians’ if I may borrow that word coined by journalists.

Discipline was eroded when the military entered politics. The coup and counter coup of 1966 ensured that the military was no longer what it ought to be. Seniority was compromised.

Ethnicity was promoted over competence. There was the politics of exclusion on account of ethnic origins. Indeed, merit was and is being sacrificed. The current administration has demonstrated its disdain for the elevated ethnic promotions to a disgraceful height.

Nigeria had lost officers in air crashes in the past. Chief of Army Staff Lt. Colonel Joseph Akahan (1967), Chief of Air Staff Shittu Alao (1969) and Chief of Army Staff General Andrew Azazi (2012) all died in air crashes.

In 1992, 163 officers lost their lives in a Hercules C-130 crash after take-off from Lagos. These were all men who volunteered to serve the nation. Soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the 1967-1970 civil war. The integrity of Nigeria is being vigorously interrogated by non-state actors.

The nation’s managers are being challenged for ineptitude, questionable decisions, and wrongheaded policies. In other words, the nation itself carries a fatal question mark. Is this why government officials decided to ignore the fallen men, the lead officers who had sworn to the defence of the country?

At a time when an insurgency and banditry have shaken the nation to its foundations? It is not a good story to tell. It is not a good signal to serving officers. It must not happen again.

Professor Eghagha can be reached on 08023220393and heghagha@yahoo.com

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


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Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


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Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.

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