Dana crash: What stakeholders said
The sad event of the DANA air disaster which occurred last Sunday caught Nigerians by surprise. For one, it came just four months before the Aviation sector should have celebrated six years of non-fatality, and in the wake of a crash in Ghana involving a Nigerian aircraft.
But Sunday’s event, occurring only a few minutes away from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport when the victims must have been preparing to land at the airport, specifically at the Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos, caught everyone by surprise. The event ignited torrents of mournful reactions and regrets from the political sector, the immediate neighbourhood of the crash, and everywhere. Below we present a few of the reactions from Nigerians on the disaster:
On Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and his Ogun State counterpart, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and other top government functionaries visited the scene of the crash. The president said: Let me use this unique opportunity to extend my condolence to the families of those who have lost their lives,” he said.
According to the president, though his administration had made some improvement in the aviation sector, the Dana Air crash was a major setback, assuring that there would be an investigation into the crash.
“The technical people will do the investigation. We will also look at administrative issues. This is where the National Assembly will play its part. The government will also play a role.”
“All of us feel touched. That is why we declared a three–day mourning period. We have been working hard to improve aviation in the country.”
NEMA spokesman, Yushau Shuaib “it is a difficult thing for us. Our hearts bleed for our brothers and sisters. Our hearts go to the famillies of those that lost their lives. We pray that it will not happen again,” said Honourable Nkiruka Onyejeocha, chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation. The Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr Harold Demuren, said “Right now our thoughts and and prayers are with the families.’
For the Director of Flight Operations, Dana Airline, Captain Oscar Wilson, the Mc Donnell Douglas (MD 83 ) aircraft that crashed on Sunday was “serviceable and operational,” in serviceable and operational,” in spite of its being 22 years old. He said: The aircraft had flown to Ibadan on Saturday without hitches, contrary to rumours that it was undergoing repairs.
“On Sunday, it was a different story entirely, as the aircraft had started operations as early as 7:47a.m. On Sunday, 5N-RAM flew at 7: 47 a.m, left Lagos to Abuja on flight 999 and Abuja back to Lagos on Flight 998. The aircraft went back to Abuja Flight 993 and was coming back before the fatal Flight 992.
“We don’t allow our aircraft to fly if not in perfect condition. We don’t take risks with people’s lives. I did the test flight of the questioned aircraft myself. There was nothing wrong with the aircraft. It was okay.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, said “the tragic incident, which led to the loss of precious lives of numerous Nigerians is, to say the least, extremely shocking and regrettable. It has cast a shadow of mourning over our great nation.
The Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, said “we should be more prayerful as a nation, so that we will not continue to lose our professionals and people of value in their prime.”
The Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said the crash was “a huge national calamity.” To him: “This is certainly one disaster too many. We have witnessed such incidents in the past but this one has further aggravated the previous wounds.
“The investigation is necessary to ensure a safer airspace and restore public confidence in the nation’s aviation industry. We urge the relevant regulatory agencies to be stricter in enforcing safety standards and ensuring that airlines comply with regulations. We also want agencies connected with disaster and emergency management to be more strengthened to ensure quick response to situations like this.”
Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, said “the plane crash connects us in a special way to the victims and their families. We all, as a nation, feel the same pain. We are united in this grief and there is no doubt that this national tragedy is a monumental loss that cuts across the entire fabri of the country.”
For his part, Abia State governor, Theodore Orji, described the crash as tragic, disheartening and monumental. The governor, who said he watched with sadness, fellow Nigerians being burnt to death, prayed to God to save the country from such disasters in the future. Governor Orji called on airline operators to place premium on safety, while commiserating with the families of the bereaved.
Kogi State governor, Captain Idris Wada, said the crash was “a major loss to the nation.” The governor sympathised with the families and victims of the crash and prayed Allah to forestall any future occurrence.
Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam, said “this unfortunate incident has robbed the country of a generation of quality human resource. It is, indeed, a sad moment for our country.”
Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi said, “it is indeed a tragic time in the lives of all Nigerians. As we mourn, let us also remember to pray for the families of the victims of the crash. It is so sad that such a disaster could visit us again as a nation, after the gruesome experiences of the past. We pray that this does not happen again, but stern measures must be taken by all relevant authorities to make sure that this does not recur.”
Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, said “we are all connected to the families of those who lost dear ones in that ill-fated flight. It could have been anyone. Our hearts go out to those directly involved.”
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), in a statement signed its president, Comrade Wahab Omar in Abuja, said : “We urge the Federal Government to urgently overhaul the aviation industry and review the licenses of all airlines operating in Nigeria.
“Government should conduct proper check on the airworthiness of aircraft before renewing the licences of operators, including the foreign airlines. Government should also put in place a policy of pegging the age of aircraft operating in the Nigerian airspace.”
The Trade Union Congress (TUC), in a statement jointly signed by its president, Mr Peter Esele and secretary-general, Mr John Kolawole, said “we call on on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigeria Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) to strengthen their capacities to make our airspace safer...The government must investigate the immediate and remote causes of this disaster.”
The Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai, who wept uncontrollably at the National Universities Commission (NUC) headquarters in Abuja, said “it is sad losing energetic, educated and highly committed individuals in active service.” The NUC lost five members of staff in the crash.
Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, said “I feel personally sad that a calamity of this magnitude is befalling the nation at a time that government is doing everything to restore confidence in our institutions.”
Mr Nigel Cookey-Gam, the communication manager of Mobil Producing Nigeria, said: “We cannot question God, but we grieve with those grieving, trusting and abiding in hope.”
Some Nigerians also posted reactions on the Nigerian Tribune website. A reader who identified himself as Femi Arikuyeri Eruobodo, said: “Lelt me first of all extend my deepest sympathies, especially to the families of those who lost their lives in the plane crash and to Nigerians in general. But the million question remains: what are the remote and immediate cause sof the disaster? Simply put, it is the monster known as corruption. No more, no less. At least, some people cleared the plane as air-worthy, even though they were very much aware that it should not fly.
Then there are those who knew of the age of the plane, yet purchased it, knowing that in Nigeria, with the right connections, even at the expense of the lives of its citizens, such deadly aircraft could be licensed. I live here in the states and I am very sure that such reckless behaviour of regulators would never be condoned. A lesson for the rest of us. The decision of the National Assembly members to investigate is welcome, but how are we sure that the outcome of the investigation would not be swept under the carpet? As far as I am concerned, the struggle to liberate Nigeria from the cabals has just begun.”
Another reader, Niyi Ojo, said, “Ooh, I was so sad , I just stay at home since yesterday here in Accra Ghana). May all their souls rest in peace.”
DANA Air crash: Challenges before Nigeria’s aviation sector
By October this year, the country’s aviation sector should have been celebrating solid six years of zero accidents. This dream was, last Sunday, shattered when an MD 83 aircraft belonging to DANA Air crashed into the densely populated area of Iju/Ishaga, Lagos, killing all the 153 people, including the crew, on board the plane and yet to be ascertained number of people whose houses the plane rammed into. In this report, Shola Adekola chronicles air crashes in Nigeria from 1935 till date.
Aviation in Nigeria is older than the nation's independence, having started with the Imperial Airways flight in 1935 carrying mails via Cairo, Egypt into Kano, with its development translating into the formation of the West African Airways Corporation (WAACO) in 1946 and later establishment of Nigeria Airways in August,1958.
This development marked the beginning of air transport industry in Nigeria. In 1959, the national carrier had in its fleet inventory one De-Havilland Dove, 3 Douglas DC -3 and 8 De-Havilland DH 114 Heron, totalling 16 aircraft and 1,384 employees.
At independent in 1960, the fleet capacity was reduced from 16 to seven, made up of 7 DC-3 upon the withdrawal of the Dove and the Heron aircraft from service. In 1961, two Piper Aztec joined the fleet with a Britannia 102 plying the Lagos-London route.
By 1978, the industry became sophisticated with the introduction of modern aircraft. The Nigeria Airways possessed 2 DC-10, 2 B707, 3 Boeing 737, 2 B727, seven F28s and 8 F-27.Before this period, the airline in 1964 had 13 aircraft made up of five F-27, six DC-3 and two Piper Aztec and in 1966, the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation (BOAC) introduced the VC10 aircraft on the Lagos-London route.
However, aviation started picking up in the early 1970s through the activities of the then national carrier, Nigeria Airways.Throughout the period, aviation in the country centered on Nigeria Airways with the Ministry of Aviation at the helms of affairs.
While the Nigerian Airports Authority (NAA) which metamorphosed to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) coordinates the affairs of all airports infrastructure which it still does till now, the defunct Federal Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA), now Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), was in charge of regulations and policy execution. Besides the FCAA then, there were two critical departments in the ministry which was in charge of air laws and standards, the Directorate of Safety Regulatory and Monitoring (DSRAM) and the Directorate of Economic Regulations (DERAM).
The Nigerian aviation history, despite its steady growth and the deregulation in 1987 that led to the emergence of private airlines thus ending Nigeria Airways monopoly, over the years, recorded many black days, which reached their peak with the 2005 and 2006 crashes which involved Bellview and Sosoliso airlines.
Before the 2005/2006 crashes
On a number of times, Nigeria had recorded plane crashes which led to severe loss of lives. The first major air crash in Nigerian aviation was that of VC -10 on 20th, November, 1969 which killed 87 passengers on a London-Lagos flight.To date, Nigeria has recorded about 54 serious air crashes. All the crashes put together had led to the death of over 2,000 people.Other notable crashes were: In 1973, when a Boeing 707 crashed in Kano killing 171 Muslim pilgrims returning from Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
In March 1978, a Fokker 28 crashed in Kano killing all 16 people on board. On December 3rd, 1983, another Fokker 28 crashed in Enugu killing all on board.
December 1988: Skypower Brandeironte aircraft overshot Ilorin Airport’s runway, killing all the passengers.
On September 26, 1992, Air Force Hercules C-130 crashed in Lagos, killing 157 military officers.
February 24, 1991: British Helicopter crashed in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, killing all nine people on board.
July 11, 1991.a DC-8 aircraft chartered by Hold Trade Air from Canada crashed in Jeddah upon take off killing 261 pilgrims.
May 21, 1991: A Cessna Citation 550 of Ashaka Cement, Hombre, crashed, killing all on board.
June 26, 1991: An Okada Air Bac-11 crashed in Sokoto, killing three persons.
September 26, 1992: Nigerian Air Force A C-130 plane crashed minutes after take-off from Lagos. All 200 on board killed.
June 24, 1995: Harka Air Services Tupolev 34 crashed on landing in Lagos, killing 16.
November 13, 1995: Nigeria Airways Boeing 737-2F9 crashed on landing in Kaduna, killing 9.
January 17, 1996: Ibrahim Abacha, son of Sani Abacha, was killed in a plane crash. The group “United Front for Nigeria’s Liberation” (UFNL)
claimed responsibility for the crash.
November 7, 1996: A Nigerian ADC (Aviation Development Corporation) Airline Boeing 727-231 flying from Port Harcourt to Lagos with 142 passengers and 9 crew members crashed on landing, plunging into the lagoon with all on board killed.
January 31, 1997: SkyPower Express Airways Embraer 110PIA crashed on landing in Yola, killing five.
September 12, 1997: NAF Dornier 228-212 in Nguru, Borno State ran into a ditch during take-off, none of the 10 people died.
January 5, 2000: SkyPower Express Airways Bandeirante 110P1A crashes on landing in Abuja, killing 17.
October 26, 2000: Dornier aircraft plunged into a thick bush near the Niger Delta, 6 occupants injured.
May 4, 2002: EAS Airlines’ BAC 1-11-500 with 105 people on board crashed and burst into flames in a densely populated suburb of Kano, killing 76 on board and 72 on the ground bringing total casualties to148.
November 30, 2003: A Cargo aircraft of Hydro Cargo, Brussels, Belgium, crash-landed.
March 6, 2004: An Aenail spray aircraft with registration number 5NBEF belonging to Berfieex Nigeria Ltd, crashed at the Bauchi Airport.
July 26, 2004: Pan African Airlines’ helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in Eacraros, Delta State, killing four persons on board.
December 29, 2004: A Boeing 727 of Chanchangi Airlines belly-landed at the MMA.
December 29, 2004: A Kenya Airlines aircraft crashed- landed at the MMA due to gear fault.
January 28, 2005: A Nigeria Air Force fighter plane crashed into a farmland in Yar Kanya, Kano State.
February 25, 2005: ADC’s B73 aircraft had its tyre burnt while landing at Yola Airport.
March 27, 2005: A Boeing 737 of Bellview had one of its engines caught fire.
The turning point came after the two fatal crashes that involved a Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 which crashed in 2005 killing the 117 people on board shortly after take-off from Lagos.
By December 10, 2005: A Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 crashed in Port Harcourt, killing all 103 on board while on October 29, 2006: Aviation Development Corporation (ADC) Airline Boeing 737 with 104 on board crashed minutes after take-off from Abuja’s airport. All but 6 perished in the disaster.
The 2005/2006 plane crashes set the ground for what brought stability and restore confidence in the travelling public until last week.
Following the two crashes, the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was forced to call for a stakeholders’ forum in 2007 where some bitter truths were told a situation, which led to the Federal Government taking some hard decisions which subsequently reshaped the sector. Obasanjo made some appointments which brought about the likes of the present director general of the NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren.
Upon assumption of office, Demuren did not waste time in reading the riot act to the airlines on the need to operate flight operations devoid of corner cuttings but in line with strict international standard.
The first thing he did was to ensure absolute compliance with safety rules ranging from adequate aircraft maintenance to good financial books while any airline found wanting were either grounded or had its license revoked. It is on record that it was within this period that the aged aircraft operating in the country’s airspace were replaced with latest machines courtesy of the domestication of the Cape Town Convention.
One major step which really made the domestic carriers sit up was the recapitalisation policy introduced by the aviation regulatory body in 2007 which announced an increase in the paid-up capital base of airlines operating in Nigeria. This was followed by the regular monitoring of the airlines financial strength to avoid safety compromise.With these and several positive steps taken by the regulatory agency with the political will from government through the autonomy granted it to operate, the industry between 2007 and 2011 greatly transformed.
The excellent performance of the regulatory body during the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety audit and the subsequent attainment of the US highest safety standard; the popular Category One Status which allows Nigerian registered carriers to fly directly to America, can still be recalled. The safety record of Nigeria, therefore, became a reference point for other African countries that had been coming to Nigeria to understudy the regulatory body. Everything continued to work well for the aviation sector for over five years without any record of accident.
What suddenly went wrong?
All the relative stability in the sector for five years suddenly disappeared with the rude shock of the Nigerian Allied Air which overshot the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana coupled with DANA Air crash on Sunday and since then series of questions have been asked on what has happened.
Such questions included; if the industry regulator has gone to sleep or if the airlines have returned to the era of corner cutting or better still if safety policies have been relaxed.
For those who have spoken in reaction to the DANA Air crash, many are wondering if the federal government policy on the age limit of aircraft allowed to fly in Nigeria which was implemented in 2002 after the EAS crash in Kano still operates.
The question is; should this policy still remains, why then should an MD 83 aircraft type that has been phased out in other countries still be allowed to operate in Nigeria.
The federal government during the tenure of Dr Kema Chikwe in 2002 banned the use of BAC1-11 and any aircraft above 22 years from operating in the country.
Apart from the fact that the ill-fated DANA aircraft was said to have exceeded 22 years, it has been discovered that the manufacturer of the plane had since stopped new manufacturing.
Effects of new crashes
Many Nigerians, including President Goodluck Jonathan, have lamented how the latest crash has greatly rubbished the good records of achievement in the industry in the last five years. Fears are being raised by key players that if care is not taken, the country may return to the dark era when planes were dropping from the country’s airspace with foreign countries declaring Nigeria’s aviation industry as a ‘no go area’.The likely effect of this crash is that the country stands to forfeit its hard-earned Category One rating, as the US may not hesitate to downgrade Nigeria to category two which will mean drawing back the hand of clock.
A Category 2 rating suggests the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) believes that the country's safety regime does not meet international standards. It is a category mainly used for countries in the developing world. Besides this, the effects of return of crashes may have discourage people from flying which will subsequently affect the country’s economy while no country survives without a vibrant air transport.
The way out
Despite all the inadequacies, air transport still remains the fastest and safest means of movement from one place to the other compared to the colossal loss of lives recorded daily through road accidents.
Recently, Nigeria’s health minister, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Nigeria had the second highest road traffic accident fatalities among the 193 countries in the world saying Nigeria records 162 deaths per 100,000. He equally stressed that road traffic accidents are the third leading cause of deaths in the country, he said that 1.3 million persons are killed and 50 million injured globally every year from road crashes.
Definitely, all the crashes the country has recorded so far do not come near the fatality figures suffered through road accidents. Therefore, all hope is still not lost except that the regulatory body with all stakeholders urgently need to come together to identify areas of lapses.
For example, there is an urgent need for the regulatory body to ensure all domestic airlines comply with the government policy on aircraft age limit, while all aircraft that is above 22 years should be banned from operating in Nigeria. This will further save the country from more embarrassment, as it has been observed that it is very expensive to maintain older aircraft and airlines may tend to cut corners due to lack of adequate funds to this.
Again, the regulatory body should put its feet on the ground to insist that any airline that is not financially viable should have no reason to remain in business , since airline business is not for just anybody.
Aviation has come a long way in Nigeria and nobody should be allowed to frustrate this noble achievement. There is a need for the aviation agencies to individually and collectively come together and review their safety strategies. But this does not mean that the cause of the DANA Air crash should not be thoroughly investigated, with the report released to at least prevent a recurrence of last Sunday’s crash.Share