21st November, 2013
Although the term “safety” in the aviation sector has become a mantra of sorts, laxity in the implementation of policies to ensure it is upheld remains a stubborn problem. In her new book titled ‘The Big Controversy’, Folasade Odutola, rendered her account as a victimised aviation official, whose sin that earned her premature retirement was being a progressive safety regulator, who left no room for compromise in ensuring maximum safety standards.
The danger that playing politics and cutting corners, regarding the sensitive issue of safety regulations poses is clear and present. Too many lives have been lost in plane crashes that may have been avoided by simple compliance with standard safety measures in the aviation industry.
What Odutola faced, for trying to ensure the safety of travellers by air is similar to the predicament of former Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Harold Demuren. His appointment was cut short, as orchestrated by elements in the aviation sector that capitalised on the unfortunate Dana crash as the last straw, in removing a competent hand, after series of wrong accusations of missapropiation failed to achieve the devious aim. The fact that he kept the Nigerian skies safe for over five years after coming on board as the chief watchdog after a spate of disastrous crashes did not suffice when it was time for him to be kicked out, without waiting for the result of investigations into the cause of the Dana crash.
Progressive, sincere and competent elements in the mould of Odutola and Demurin are an endangered specie in the aviation industry where corruption- though not limited to this terrain- festers. And the flying public will remain at the receiving end of the detrimental effects of the lax regulatory culture, encouraged by less upright officials easily corrupted by self-centred operators with little regard for human lives in their pursuit of profit.
Unfortunately, the autonomy bestowed upon NCAA, which should have given the agency the power to carry out its duties without undue interference by the Aviation Ministry is not total, still leaving room for the wishes of selfish elements to be granted through ministerial endorsements.
The hazards in bending regulatory rules through prevailing, with impunity, upon officials whose duty is to ensure safety standards cannot be over emphasized. The ball is in the court of the executive as well as the National Assembly to halt this dangerous trend.