3rd June 2007 – a very sad day for football in Sierra Leone and relations with the people of Togo

31 May 2012

When those in power, responsible for ensuring that the system of checks and balances in society are adhered to, regulations, legislations and standards are followed to the letter, choose instead to turn a blind eye and renege on their responsibility, the result is chaos, impunity and rampant corruption.

And so it was in 2007, when the minister responsible for ensuring that all transport companies in the country, deliver the highest standard of service and duty of care to their customers, failed to discharge that duty.

There have been many gruesome and tragic accidents involving the country’s sea ferries and road transports, but none to compare with the tragedy that occurred on the 3rd June, 2007.

The government of Sierra Leone will now have to pay millions of dollars in compensation.

All members of the Togolese football team, 19 fans and the Togolese Minister of Sports lost their lives, when a poorly maintained and unsafe commercial helicopter, crashed at the Lungi airport in Freetown.

Sierra Leone’s former minister of transport and communications – Prince Harding, as well as two senior aviation officials in the ministry, lost their jobs as a result of the crash and a commission of enquiry was set up by president Kabbah.

The Togolese football fans had come to cheer their team’s 1-0 victory over Sierra Leone at an African Cup of Nations qualifying match.

The helicopter was said to be owned by a Nigerian company – Paramount Helicopters Limited, who it is alleged, had failed to properly maintain the helicopter and insure the business against risks.

The helicopter had taken off from its Aberdeen heliport. The accident took place as the helicopter approached the national airport for landing, en-route to Togo, after a spectacular football match against the Sierra Leone national team.

Few would remember the result of that match, as the national tragedy and unnecessary loss of life unfolded into an international dispute.

The government of Sierra Leone may now have to pay millions of dollars in compensation to Togo, for the negligence of a minister of state.

Money, will certainly not mitigate the loss suffered by the families of those who perished in that helicopter crash.

But, what is important is the mending of diplomatic relations between the two West African sister nations, and the comfort the people of Sierra Leone may extend to the bereaved families.

It is understood that the government of Sierra Leone has finally agreed to pay some compensation. It is not clear whether the company was fully insured.

The government too, is taking responsibility for the negligence of a former minister, who failed to ensure that all flights operating from the country, complied with air transport safety and insurance legislations.                

According to report from State House in Freetown, President Koroma has this week held talks with a delegation from Togo, headed by the Togolese Minister of Transport – Mr. Ninsao Gnofam.

During the meeting at State House in Freetown, both sides discussed the need for the compensation to be made directly to families of the victims of the helicopter crash.

Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma described the accident as sad and unfortunate, adding that the government and people of Sierra Leone feel very strongly about the tragic accident.

President Koroma implored the delegation to work jointly with its counterpart in Sierra Leone, as his government was anxious to achieve closure to what has been an awful experience for both countries.  

The President assured the delegation during their visit that they would sit and discuss the way forward, saying the offending company’s insurers should also be part of the engagement, to enable them find a way of compensating the families of the victims.

He assured the delegation of his unyielding commitment to conclude the matter so that it would not have any negative effect on the relationship between the two countries. 

President Koroma also disclosed that the accident had been discussed with the President of Togo on several occasions, for which he respects his show of concern for his people.

The Togolese Minister of Transport – Ninsao Gnofam, said they were in Freetown to deliver a special message to President Koroma, with respect to that helicopter crash, which took the lives of so many, in June, 2007.

He went on to note that the Togolese Government was anxious to find out what the government of Sierra Leone had decided to do, in compensating the families of the victims.

Mr. Ninsao Gnofam, informed President Koroma, that they had been following up events since the unfortunate accident five years ago, but that nothing seems to be happening to address the matter.

He also said they had received the report on the accident, and although they are aware of the conclusions of the report, they however, want concrete and permanent solution to be agreed.  

The Togolese Minister of Transport informed President Koroma that they had discussed the matter with their colleagues in Sierra Leone – the Minister of Transport and Aviation and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The Togolese Minister of Sports – Christopher Tchao, thanked President Koroma for assuring the delegation that an amicable solution will be found, which would be in the interest of both countries.

He expressed delight that they now have a message to deliver to the people of Togo.





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