The Nigerian Senate has summoned the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to explain measures being taken by the federal government to minimise air mishaps and near fatalities in the country.
The Senate also resolved to invite the heads of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and other relevant agencies in the industry on steps being taken to check human errors and preventable air crashes.
The resolutions followed an extensive deliberation on a motion titled “The need to minimise the possibility of air mishaps and near fatalities in Nigeria”, sponsored by Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos East) and 14 other senators.
Mr. Ashafa led the motion by reminding the Senate of reports of a near fatal incident involving Dana Airlines with number 9J0363, explaining that the aircraft overshot the runway at the Port Harcourt Airport, on a flight from Abuja.
“This incident was attributed to the wet surface of the runway. Just a few weeks before that, there was also panic on Wednesday, 7th of February, 2018, when the emergency door of an aircraft conveying passengers to Abuja fell off upon landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja”, he said.
He expressed concern that these recent occurrences might be a sign of a sequence of human errors, caused by the failure of officials and staff of the agencies saddled with the responsibility of guaranteeing safety to carry out due diligence before issuing clearance for aircraft to operate within the Nigerian airspace.
“Nigeria has experienced a significant number of air catastrophes that cost the lives of hundreds of Nigerians, due to a range of causes including human and technical errors,” he said.
Making reference to an article published by PREMIUM TIMES on February 21, 2018, titled, Human errors, dereliction of duty are major causes of plane crashes in Nigeria, he said it had become imperative to move with speed to ensure that agencies in the Aviation industry do their work in order to prevent avoidable loss of human lives.
Chukwuka Utazi, (PDP, Enugu), reminded the Senate that it set up an ad-hoc committee last year to investigate the aviation sector, but nothing was done afterwards.
“We visited the airport, held a public hearing and all that but the same issues are rising today again. Most of us became very much afraid of entering planes. For a long time, I was afraid to travel by air because of what I heard from the professionals about our airports and all the issues we raised in that committee, nothing has been done.
“Ordinary landing equipment that should be in the airport, we don’t have them. Some of the things that were procured already have not been installed in the airports. This is very much unwarranted and shouldn’t happen in a country like this.
“We are complaining that we have only one runway in Abuja here and if its closed down, nobody moves. The last time we closed the whole airport just to do some renovations and nothing was moving. I am of the opinion that the Minister of State for Aviation should appear before all of us here, not just the committee”, he said.
Contributing to the motion, James Manager (PDP, Delta) blamed the aviation authority for ignoring the lingering dangers in the airports.
“As a country, we really need to be careful. If you go to the airport now, you’ll see a lot of Nigerians getting ready to travel without knowing the details of the dangers. This is a very serious issue. Most of the required equipment are not in the airports. Some of the things have been bought already but have not been installed. They have refused to install them. What a country!
“And when you travel by air, by the time you take off, you say your first prayer and your last prayer because when you are in the air, everything is gone. No matter whom you are, rich or poor”, he said.
Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger North) called for immediate action in order to prevent recurrence of the incidents
“The issue at hand calls for more decisive action even more than what we are looking at because we had an ad-hoc committee that looked at the aviation sector and I think we must give confidence to our citizens.
“If necessary, we should declare a state of emergency in the aviation sector. We cannot wait for another incident to happen before we start acting when all the signals are coming out clearly. Ranging from door falling off to emergency brake being applied.
“I don’t want a situation where we’ll come back here again and say lets give them one minute silence, let us take the one minute decision now and save lives and future accidents,” he said.
Former aviation minister, Stella Oduah, however blamed the Federal Government for not properly funding the aviation ministry.
“The issue concerning aviation on incidents and accidents, is something that has nothing to do with public hearing. In aviation, policy is the most regulated department. No pilot can start an aircraft without going through an established process. Why is it that these processes are not being followed?
“I don’t think any pilot is suicidal to the extent that they want to kill themselves and in the process, kill others. The first person responsible for ensuring safety is the pilot.
“The problem that aviation has, is funding because you need to train the personnel, buy the necessary equipment, maintaining the aircraft. There is an existing Act that needs to be reviewed and I think the last one that was done was in 1960-something.
“We must tell aviation to do the needful. Government should give them the necessary funding, intervention fund is required. It’s not that aviation is not doing what it’s supposed to do, but because it is not equipped to do what it’s supposed to do”, she said.
The Senate also resolved to “urge the Honourable Minister of State for Transportation (Aviation) to immediately direct all relevant agencies in the Aviation Industry to immediately conduct a maintenance and airworthiness audit on all commercial aircraft operating within the Nigerian Airspace as well as the training of personnel operating within the industry.”