4th June, 2013
The mishap of Sunday, 3 June, 2012, involving the McDonnell Douglas MD-83, operated by Dana Air, in Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, again, revealed the desperate manipulation and criminal collaboration by operators and officials of the country’s aviation industry.
Had proper checks been conducted and regulations enforced, in compliance with international best practices, the disaster might possibly have been averted.
But, a year after the tenth of such a tragedy occurred, one doubts if the government and its supervising agencies have learned any meaningful lesson that could bring about doing things differently, particularly in administration, regulation and enforcement of safety standards.
Rather than regaling Nigerians with the usually deceitful choreographed rhetoric and lip-service of being on top of every air accident that befell the nation, government must address the challenges that have continued to compel industry operators to indulge in sharp practices, so as to remain in business.
While the investigations of the ill-fated Dana flight have been shrouded in mystery – an evidence of the atavistic and administrative opaque system – it is trite that it was most probably a human error.
As the available details reveal, the crew had failed to properly monitor fuel flow and turn on certain fuel pumps, which resulted in both engines shutting down almost simultaneously from lack of fuel. Part of what was said to have been revealed by the cockpit voice recorder proved that the pilot had spent over 20 minutes trying to restart the engines.
As its unofficial creed, the preliminary report by the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, wouldn’t state why the engines shut down.
It is more hurting that many of the victims, including those on the ground, have not been fully compensated by Dana Air. Only few of them have received the interim compensation of $30,000, while they await the $100,000 remainder.
The company, through its spokesman, Tony Usidamen, attributed the delay to the slow pace of legal verification of documents and had also met with the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to expedite the issuance of Letters of Administration to the benefitting next-of-kin.
Even though the claim suggested that Dana officials are earnestly working on meeting their obligation under the law, it is irresponsible not to have factored in adequate compensation for ground victims, too.
Usidamen’s statement that “unlike victims onboard, which are spelt out by ICAO, ground victims have no clear cut on compensation,” is irresponsible. It is justice to the victims onboard as it is to those on the ground to receive full compensations.
The law must be applied with a human face, and not to create more pains and anguish to the victims than it had done. Dana Air has resumed operations, and it doesn’t stand on high moral ground as the culprit which ruined other people’s lives by taking away their breadwinners, loved ones, homes and means of livelihood.
However, the bickering in some families, as alleged by the Ministry of Aviation, over who is the rightful next-of-kin to receive the benefits, is the most dishonourable thing such families can do to their dead. Do they need reminding that the death of their loved ones shouldn’t be commercialised or turned into monetary gain in that manner? What in God’s name is wrong with us as a people, government and nation?