Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah
On Thursday, protests were kicked against the lifting of the suspension of Dana Air’s operational licence by the Federal Government. Their agonies, according to them, is worsened by the fact that the Federal Government did so even when investigations into the crash were yet to be completed and the remains of some of the deceased were yet to be buried.
To them, Dana airlines, which they accused of negligence that caused the death of 153 people , should not be allowed to fly its aircraft in the Nigerian air space.
The Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, had on Wednesday announced lifting of the suspension because of government’s satisfaction with the airworthiness of the airline after rigorous technical, operational and financial audit of the airline. Many members of the families of the victims disagreed with the decision.
Obinna, son of the late General Manager, Corporate Affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, on Thursday launched an online campaign asking Nigerians to sign a petition seeking boycott of Dana flights. “Three months after the suspension of their licence, the Federal Government has decided to lift the suspension. The wounded hearts are still bleeding and are not being taken into consideration here,” he wrote.
The family of the late Col. Lt. Col. Ochigbo Jumbo, in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, also said the lifting of the suspension on Dana Airlines, when investigations into the crash had not been concluded, showed the insensitivity of government.
Frank, a younger brother of the late Jumbo, said that the government was toying with people’s emotions. He said, the lifting of the suspension of the licence on Dana Air less than three months after the incident shows the failure of a government which has no feelings for the people. “We don’t know the criteria they used; the corpses of some victims, numbering about 16, are yet to be identified and they are lifting suspension. Even if they are lifting the suspension, the government should have waited for the results of the Accident and Investigation Department for everybody to know if it was the pilot’s error that caused the crash.
Answering questions from newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, Oduah clarified that the licence of the airline was never suspended. The operation of the airline was suspended after the crash of one of its aircraft on June 3 that led to the death of 163 persons. The lifting of the ban on the airline was announced in a statement by Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister, Mr. Joe Obi, in Abuja on Wednesday.
The minister said, “Our action is based on our satisfaction, after carrying out a technical audit of the operator, that the airline is airworthy. While we continue to share in the pain and loss of the families of those who lost their loved ones in the crash, we want to stress that we took this decision with all sense of responsibility. Government was not under any pressure to restore the airline’s operating licence and we want to assure Nigerians and thetravelling public that safety remains our priority.”
According to Oduah, none of the reports on the June 3 incident has indicted the airline, adding that the actual cause of the loss of the two engines of the aircraft may never be known until the Accident Investigative Bureau has finished its work. She also dismissed insinuations that the lifting of the ban was hasty, adding that it was not usually the practice to ground the operations of an airline whose plane was involved in an accident but added that the step had to be taken because of the sentiments in Nigeria.
The Congress for Progressive Change, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, described the Federal Government’s action as “an anti-climax to a very opaque Air Accident Investigation Process.”
The party asked the government to explain how it arrived at the conclusion of the air-worthiness of the airline and further asked if it was based on the conclusion of the investigation carried out by the Accident Investigation of the Accident Investigation Bureau.
Section 29(13) of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Act 2006, Section29(13) reads, “On the basis of the findings of accident investigations the Authority shall be informed and the Director General shall take corrective actions that, in the judgment of the Authority, will prevent similar accidents in the future.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Chief Emma Enuekwu, told a correspondent that government should “be mindful and ensure that all the remote and immediate causes of crash are properly checked before allowing the airline to fly again.” He also said the airline should complete paying the families of the victims their due insurance money before allowing the airline to fly.
Also, the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said that government was not concerned about people’s lives. “It’s a sign that we do not have a government that cares about our lives. It is the height of callousness to lift the ban without the reports of what happened,” she said.