Nigeria’s Federal Government on Friday admitted wrongdoing in placing a suspension on Dana Airlines immediately after an aircraft belonging to the airline crashed in Lagos, killing all 153 passengers on board.
Minister of Aviation, Mrs Stella Oduah, explained that suspending the airline’s operating license after the air disaster constituted a violation of global aviation practices.
In an interview with Channels Television, Oduah addressed the strong public outcry against the FG’s decision on Wednesday to lift the suspension on Dana Airlines. She explained that the right course of action for the government should have been to single out the particular aircraft and carry out investigations.
Dana’s license was suspended two days after its Abuja-Lagos flight 992 suffered engine failure and crashed into a residential area in Iju Ishaga, Lagos, miles from the airport.
However on Wednesday, three months into the suspension, the FG announced that Dana Air has received a clean bill of health, giving it the green light to fly and sparking outrage amongst the families of victims. Angry loved ones accuse Dana Air of negligence and believe it should not be allowed to fly any aircraft in Nigerian airspace.
However, Oduah on Friday said it is against best practices to ground an airline because of a crash. She explained that rather than indict Dana, the results of the investigation that followed the crash “showed that the airline is one of the best in the country today”.
Despite receiving a clean bill of health, Dana will not return to the skies immediately as it still need to go through some processing.
Oduah said that while Dana is not “a perfect company”, it does play by the rules.
“Dana’s manuals, log book and administrative policies are all in compliance with the NCAA rules and regulations. We’re satisfied that thorough investigation was carried out and that was why we said they can go back to work.”
While Oduah extolled the company, she admits that the cause of the deadly crash that killed 153 still remains a mystery.
“I don’t know the cause of the accident but I know what is not the cause. The accident was not due to NCAA’s lack of responsibility and it was not due to Dana not doing what they ought to do,” she explained.
‘Shocking and insensitive’
The FG might be willing to absolve Dana of any blame, but human rights lawyer, Mr Jiti Ogunye was quoted in the Punch as describing the suspension lifting as “shocking and insensitive”.
He said, “This is another step that has shown that the government expects Nigerians to take responsibility for their lives. If you fly, you fly at your own risk, that seems to be what they are saying.
“This undermines the safety of the aviation industry. The people affected by the June 3 accident have not been compensated; the coroner’s inquest is inconclusive and they are saying the affected airline can continue operation. The law has not been allowed to take its cause. It is unfortunate.”
Another lawyer, Mr. Kunle Fadipe, marveled at the haste of the FG in reinstating Dana Air’s license when “there are issues to be resolved”.
“Emotions are still very tense on the part of several affected families and you want Nigerians to start flying the airline so soon?
“Government and regulators should have allowed emotions to calm down; some people have not even buried their dead. It is very surprising,” Fadipe said.
‘Where is the justice?’
Grieving loved ones are not keeping silent. Onyiye Okocha, a 26-year-old woman who lost her husband in the Dana crash condemned the reinstatement of the airline’s license when the “final report of the investigation of the crash is not out yet”.
In a statement, Okocha said: “The revelations during the coroner’s inquest showed that there was some form of negligence and misconduct on the part of Dana Air, but yet again, the Nigerian government has shot itself in the leg by restoring their licence.
“Where is Justice? I ask.
“It is one thing for their licence to be restored, it is another thing for you to keep them in business. If our government cannot do what is proper, we can.
“I call on well meaning Nigerians who love and respect human life to boycott Dana Air.
“The crash may not have affected you like it did me. You may not be a widow like me at the age of 26, left alone to raise a baby that was just 15 months.
“But if we all keek quite, this one too shall pass as one of the sad many.”
Meanwhile, Obinna Ajuonuma, son of the late NNPC spokesman Levi Ajuonuma who died in the Dana crash, has started an online petition urging Nigerians to rise to action and stop Dana Air from flying in Nigeria.
He wrote, “I need you to join me and others in signing the petition that will Dana Air from operating again in Nigeria.
“Three months after the suspension of its license, the Federal Government has decided to lift the suspension Dana Airline! The wounded hearts are still bleeding and not being taken into consideration here.”