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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 18:01 GMT
Nigeria quashes air crash rumour
Police interrogate witnesses about reported plane crash
There has been no evidence of a plane crash
The Nigerian authorities have called off the search for a plane alleged to have crashed near the commercial capital, Lagos, last week.

Aviation minister Malam Isa Yuguda said no evidence of a crash had been found.

Mr Yuguda said investigations showed that neither Nigeria nor any other country had declared a plane missing.

On Friday, several people said they had seen a commercial aircraft capable of carrying 25 people ditch in the sea off Lekki beach, to the east of Lagos.

The purported crash scene was less than one kilometre (half a mile) from the beach - which is located on a busy flight path.

We didn't find any sign - no floating oil, no debris
Elyasu Bako
Head of search and rescue

The world's main news organisations - including the BBC - immediately carried the reports.

Reuters news agency quoted a construction worker as saying: "We were working when we saw a plane turning and twisting in the air. Then suddenly it plunged into the ocean and we heard a loud explosion."

Another "witness" told the Associated Press that white, yellow and blue twin-engine plane had come down.

"I rushed down here and saw smoke. Only the nose was still above the water," he said.


Nigerian aviation officials contacted various airlines - both domestic and foreign - but none reported a missing plane. They nevertheless sent crews to search for any wreckage

On Wednesday they confirmed that they had drawn a blank.

"We didn't find any sign - no floating oil, no debris," said the head of the search operation Elyasu Bako said.

The minister advised that in future, announcements that could cause panic to the industry should be confirmed through relevant bodies, including his office, before being made public.

The head of the Nigeria Aviation Safety Initiative told Reuters news agency that the crashed object had been classified as an Unidentified Flying Object.

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