By Olatunji Saliu
ABUJA, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Nigerian air force will go ahead with its planned air display over Abuja next week, despite an air collision involving two military jets on Friday, the defense ministry spokesman John Agim has told Xinhua by telephone.
One pilot, identified as Bello Baba-Ari, a squadron leader, was confirmed killed when two military jets collided during rehearsal here on Friday.
The practice was held by the air force ahead of a grand ceremony slated for Oct. 1 to celebrate Nigeria's 58th independence anniversary.
Agim said the sad incident will not affect the air display or training by the Nigerian Air Force on that day.
Following the accident on Friday, all military aircraft earlier seen participating in the rehearsals were immediately flown back to their base.
"The air display will still be held. And I must confirm that those aircraft are also used to train our troops in para-dropping," Agim said.
Nigeria's air force chief Abubakar Sadique said the pilots involved in the Friday accident had already been programmed for training on a higher performance aircraft that the Nigerian air force was about to acquire.
In a statement, Sadique said an investigation was underway to ascertain the cause of the accident in order to avoid a recurrence.
Air force spokesperson Ibikunle Daramola said in a statement that the air mishap necessitated the three pilots eject from their aircraft, which subsequently crashed in the general area of Katamkpe hill, Abuja.
"Regrettably, however, one of them later died due to complications from injuries sustained upon impact on the ground," Daramola said, adding there were no civilian casualities.
Locals at the crash site in Katampe area of Abuja said the pilot of one of the military aircraft lost control during the rehearsal.
One witness said a big bang was heard before he saw heavy smoke billowing from a mountain behind his office in the area.
Two pilots were spotted landing with parachutes, the witness said.
Mohammed Gidi-Nass, who led a rescue team before the arrival of emergency officials and military personnel, told Xinhua they carried one dead body and rescued three others.
Among the three rescued, one was injured and two were unhurt, said Gidi-Nass, a car salesman near the crash site.
"We were sitting down by the roadside when we heard the loud bang. They (the military jets) usually fly over our area, especially in the past one month now. We saw one of the jets hitting a hill behind our office," he said while giving his account of the accident.