Jonathan names nine-man airlines audit committee

THE NATION Newspaper- Vincent Ikuomola

The black box of the ill-fated Dana Air plane which crashed in Lagos last Sunday will be taken to the United States today – in a bid to find out the cause of the tragedy.

Nigeria lacks a good laboratory to analyse the key conponent of the aircraft, it was learnt yesterday.

All 153 onboard the Abuja-Lagos flight 9J-922 died. On the ground, 10 died.

Also yesterday, the Federal Government ordered an up-to-date audit of all airlines as part of measures to forestall another crash. A nine-man Technical and Administrative Review Panel, headed by Group Captain John Obakpolor (rtd), an aeronautical engineer, was set up. Other members of the panel are Captain Austin Omame, Capt Dele Sasegbon, Dr OB Aliu, FC Onyeyiri, Capt Mfon Udom, Capt Muhtar Usman, Dr Tony Anuforom and Capt A Mshelia.

The panel’s report, the government promised, will be made public. President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to take a firm action when necessary.

Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar II, and others called for a “thorough” investigation of the crash in which about 160 died.

The panel will do a comprehensive assessment of all domestic airlines and recommend to the government actions that should be taken to improve safety.

Besides, it will assess the financial health line of airlines operating within Nigeria.

Briefing reporters immediately after the “special” Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held in memory of the victims of flight 9j-922, Aviation Minister Stella Oduah said the committee, which has six months to complete its work was expected to come up with a comprehensive report on each of the airlines in the country.

On regulation, she said the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), will be strengthened. This, she said, includes the implementation of the Central Bank/Ministry of Aviation committee recommendations.

The minister, who hinted about moving the black box to the United States for analyses, said: “At the site of the incident, there were people with AIB t-shirts; they were gathering information.

“They cut the parts from the aircraft, looking for clues. The information they obtained will be taken back to the lab for analysis to get exactly the reason for the accident. But, in addition to that, because we do not have a laboratory for the black boxes, we need to take them outside the country for proper analysis.”

Mrs Oduah also assured of proper diagnosis of the cause of the crash. “I want to also say that among the team that worked with AIB, are international experts and so, you are not likely to have collusion or reports that will have integrity issue. So, I want to assure that the report we will get will be a very authentic report,” She said.

On the nine-man panel, she said: “Mr. President has graciously approved the names of those that will be part of the investigative panel. As you are aware, there are two investigative panels that will be going on simultaneously; one will use the other as a resource, based on aviation global best practices.

“We cannot redesign ours; we have to do it in line with what is obtainable in the aviation sector. And so, immediately an accident takes place in aviation, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) commences investigation.

The reason is to ensure that we don’t have a reoccurrence and so we are very preventive in aviation, not to have this happen again. But, most importantly, is to determine the cause of the accident.

“The economic regulatory aspect of NCAA will be strengthened to monitor domestic airlines on a regular basis. So, whenever we see signs that indicate danger, we will be able to either shut down the airline or take precautionary actions so that we don’t get into a very bad situation.”

On the recommendations of the CBN/ FMA, she said: there is an ongoing committee between the Ministry of Aviation, the CBN, commercial banks and other financial agencies. They are set in the first place to ensure that domestic airlines are restructured. They are coming out with their recommendations today and we have read a preliminary report and so we will implement it fully.

“Mr. President has granted us that approval and when this is done, all the local airlines will have a transformed structure. And we all know that the reason why most domestic airlines have problems is because the structures within which they are operating are very faulty. So, we are fixing that with this measure.

Mrs Oduah added: “The current airline economic regulatory regime will be reviewed again within the next three months to make it more effective, current and relevant to safety needs. The safety measure in aviation is like the cardinal; it is not negotiable; it is not subject to discussion. It is what must be done and it is what is done on a regular basis. Everything is safety.”

On reports of past crashes, she said: “I wasn’t there before and cannot answer for them now. I can tell you what is happening now. I also want to say that all the reports of past air crashes, the Sosoliso, ADC etc are ready and when we get the proper approval to release to the public, we will do so because it serves no purpose to keep it because it is for public knowledge; because there are lessons we should learn from such incidents and not allow them reoccur. That is the purpose.”

The minister also said the crashed aircraft was not the one that was investigated over the concern raised by Akwa Ibom Governor Godswill Akpabio. She said the aircraft involved is abroad for repairs.

Mrs Oduah assured Nigerians: “Air transportation is still the safest mode of transportation. Our airspace is very safe. I hear people say our airspace is not safe, that is not true; we have the safest airspace in the world; we are very safe. What happened has nothing to do with the safety nets of our air space. And so I want to assure Nigerians that what happened on Sunday will not reoccur, by the grace of God. We will do everything humanly possible to ensure that we enhance our safety policies and procedures and we are doing that now to ensure that NCAA becomes stronger and their regulatory oversight is enhanced.

“With all the approvals we have got and with the transformation measures that is currently ongoing, in addition to institutional reforms that we started about a year ago, everything is on course. All these are to ensure we have safe aviation sector in Nigeria. “


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