5th June, 2012
Once again, the nation has been thrown into mourning following the death of more than 150 passengers of a domestic airline which crashed in Iju-Ishaga, a border town between Lagos and Ogun states, on Sunday.
The day which has been aptly described as a Black Sunday by many Nigerians, is one they will not forget for a long time to come.
It started with the news that a Nigerian cargo plane in Ghana overshot the runway and crashed into a bus, killing 10 people the previous day.
Nigerians were still trying to digest the news when a suicide bomber in Bauchi detonated a bomb at a barricade near two churches where worshippers were attending Sunday service. When the smoke cleared, 15 people lay dead.
As if these were not enough for the day, the news of the crash of a Dana Air plane carrying 152 passengers and six crew members at Iju-Ishaga in the afternoon hit the nation like a thunderbolt.
President Goodluck Jonathan must have been devastated by the news of the Dana Air crash that he declared a three-day national mourning for the dead. But beyond the mourning, what is important is the need to ensure that we stop these tragedies from happening again. We cannot but agree with the president that this should never occur again. If for nothing else, the Dana plane crash has again brought to the fore the precarious state of the nation’s aviation sector and the need to do away with obsolete planes and equipment.
From the information released by the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Dr. Harold Demurin, the pilot of the ill-fated plane declared emergency shortly before the plane disappeared from the radar at the control towers of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja. We have also been made to understand that the plane lost its two engines shortly before the crash.
The pertinent questions to ask now are: What emergency measures did the authorities take when the pilot of the plane said he was in distress? It is on record that emergency officials did not arrive the scene of the crash until 40 minutes after.
There is also the report that Governor Godswill Akpabio recently alerted the management of the airline of the poor state of one of its planes during a flight. In the light of this, what measures did the NCAA, as the aviation watchdog, take to ensure that Dana Air management heeded the warning by the governor? Why should a plane lose its two engines at the same time if there is no laxity on the part of the maintenance crew? The answers to these questions will determine to a great extent whether the NCAA and management of Dana Air are culpable of dereliction of duty that resulted in the accident or not.
We are happy that the Federal Government has begun investigation into the crash. We implore the investigators to probe the claims by an official of the airline that the plane was not in good condition but the management forced the pilot to fly the plane. We also want the investigators to examine the history of the crashed plane. We also want to know when the plane undertook its last maintenance check.
These are issues we would want the investigators to unravel to assure us that criminal negligence and indifference on the part of the management of the airline and officials of NCAA, were not responsible for the crash which had thrown all of us into mourning.
All those found to have negligently contributed to the crash should not be spared.
As a first measure, we call on the government to suspend the operating licence of Dana Air until investigation is concluded into the crash.
It was also appalling that some Nigerians took to looting at the scene of the crash. We strongly condemn this act, which we believe, is a sad reflection of the level of poverty in our country.