The THISDAY newspaper of Monday, August 27, 2012 had the caption “Ministry: Dana Air Can’t Resume Now” on the bottom left of the front page, amongst other captions. That I saw the publication was a divine coincidence because I told my son to buy The Guardian newspaper but he inadvertently bought THISDAY. I had told him to return the THISDAY newspaper but changed my mind when I saw the Aviation Ministry’s update on Dana Air crash and ended up buying both newspapers.
Before going into the specifics of the Dana Air’s story, please find hereunder my deductions after reading the story:
- Dana Air management has smartly changed tactics by now speaking through the regulators having realized that their two publications after the plane crash only succeeded in drawing the ire of Nigerians;
- The vast majority of Nigerians are up against powerful oligarchs who have no regard for human lives. They will go to any length to protect their vested interests – business and financial – even at the expense of the lives of their fellow citizens;
- There’s more to the issue of Dana Air than meets the eye. Dana Air management and owners apparently have strong political connections in Nigeria. This is not a new development, what is strange is that they are getting away with the murder of over 160 Nigerians without anyone being prosecuted for their negligent acts.
- These oligarchs and their foreign collaborators carry on their nefarious activities on the strength of what I call the five ills of the Nigerian people: poverty, ignorance, insensitivity, indifference and forgetfulness.
- Because of the above mentioned ills, the oligarchs always find willing tools among hungry Nigerians who are ready to do anything to earn money.
A Sad Story
About one month ago, I met a family friend whom I had not seen since the Dana Air plane crashed on June 03, 2012. When he got to know that I would have been on that fated plane and that I lost five (5) friends to the crash, he said: “Now, let me give you a shocker.” I stared at him helplessly wondering what the shocker was. Then he continued, “That plane crash was an accident waiting to happen! In fact, it was bound to happen.” I was flustered. I asked him what he meant. Now this is the story as he told me:
On May 20, 2012 (two weeks before the crash involving Dana Air plane), his sister-in-law boarded a Dana Air flight from Uyo to Lagos. The lady said that when she entered the plane; she noticed that it was rather stuffy. When she sounded out the passenger sitting next to her, the person expressed the same concern. They erroneously concluded that the pilot was probably trying to conserve fuel and will turn on the air-conditioner before take-off. As things turned out, that assumption was wrong.
When they were eventually airborne, they found out that the air-conditioning wasn’t working! Things got so bad that the lady, who was feeling terrible, had to complain to one of the crew members who could not offer any reasonable response for their predicament other than to pacify her! Unfortunately, this lady passed out before they made it to Lagos.
On getting to Lagos, she was quickly rushed to a hospital not far from the airport. She ended up spending two days in the hospital. Though she survived it, the baby she was carrying didn’t make it (she was pregnant)!
The real drama was in the way some Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Dana Air staff paraded the hospital. Apparently, their mission was to ensure that the story didn’t get out. According to my friend, the first day his in-law was in the hospital, the NCAA staff kept muttering that Dana Air’s operation was going to be suspended for their negligent act. He even collected the mobile number of one of the vocal NCAA staff.
However, my friend got his rudest shock when the medical report came out. He said when he read the report, the content had been watered down so much that nobody could make anything serious out of it talk less of using it as a basis for sanctioning a murderous organization like Dana Air. He said he actually suspected that the report may not be very useful because the mannerism of the NCAA staff had changed by the second day. The NCAA staff no longer talked about suspending or punishing Dana Air. Their focus had shifted to making Dana Air underwrite the medical expenses!
Back in Uyo, the lady’s husband who had threatened to sue Dana Air decided not to go ahead with charging the company to court. He was consoled by the fact that his wife is alive to tell the story.
However, my friend said that when he heard about the Dana plane crash on June 03, 2012, he said the first thing he did was to call one of the NCAA staff (Mr. X) he had met in the hospital when his sister-in-law was hospitalized two weeks earlier. He told me he called Mr. X all kinds of unprintable names on the phone but the man kept quiet. Unfortunately, the die was cast; several families had been thrown into avoidable sorrow by the negligent attitude of Dana Air management and staff of NCAA.
Given the above scenario, I leave you the reader of this article to judge if NCAA and /or Aviation Ministry can be relied upon to do the things they were credited to have said in the story published in the THISDAY newspaper of Monday, August 27, 2012.
What we require Nigerians to do
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It is because people’s lives matter that one of the cardinal responsibilities of leaders is to ensure the protection of lives and property.
Since those entrusted with the responsibility of leadership in our nation cannot be trusted to act in our best interest, it is high time we took our destinies in our hands and acted accordingly. To this end, I am requesting Nigerians who know and believe that power belongs to the people to support the BOYCOTT of all products and services of DANA GROUP in Nigeria by refusing to buy / use the under listed products and services of DANA GROUP. The objective is to put an end to the Group’s murderous activities inNigeria. PLEASE DON’T BUY / USE THE FOLLOWING:
- Dana Airlines (if the NCAA / Aviation Ministry eventually restores the company’s AOL);
- KIA Motors
- Sterling Motors
- Aquadana water
- Danaco Milk
- Dana rice
- Dana Drips
Below is the story presented in THISDAY newspaper of Monday, August 27, 2012, which I typed out for your information. My comments on specific aspects of the story are in red ink.
Ministry: Dana Air Can’t Resume Now – THISDAY Newspaper (Monday, August 27, 2012)
Almost three months after Dana Air’s flight 0992 crashed in a suburb of Lagos killing 163 people, the workers of the airline and others have started clamouring for the restoration of its operational licence.
Who are the people clamouring for restoration of Dana Air’s licence? Nigerians are not as callous as they are made to look here. The first person to go on air (Channels Television) to condemn Dana Air management for allowing an airplane in a bad condition to carry hapless Nigerians was a staff of Dana Air. Two or three days after, we never heard anything about her again. Let’s hope she’s safe.
However, they may have to wait for a while as the Ministry of Aviation explained yesterday that the Federal Government is in not in a hurry to review the suspension of the airline’s licence. Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister of Aviation, Joe Obi, said the Federal Government was yet to lift the suspension on the airline because it has to ensure that it would maintain a safe operation whenever it resumes service.
“We want to make sure that every aircraft in their fleet is air worthy. The suspension will be lifted. But I recall that when the crash happened, everybody was shouting ban them; ban them. Now people are saying lift the suspension. We want to be sure that by the time they come back, they will operate safely. We are carrying out checks and we will not be stampeded,” he added.
This is obviously a figment of the imagination of the few individuals who want Dana Air to come back. The fact remains that nothing has been done to establish that anything serious has been done to ensure safety. Strangely, the Flight Data Recorder (Black box) was said to have been severely burnt making it impossible to retrieve any information from the device! How can anybody say they will ensure safe operations when they are clueless about what happened?
Someone is obviously testing public opinion. Both NCAA and the Aviation Ministry, through their actions before and after the Dana Air crash, do not inspire anyone’s confidence in their ability to manage the operations of the industry.
Obi also said those clamouring for the airline’s return should allow the professionals to do their jobs because there are other safety considerations that must come into play.
“Such safety issues must not be subsumed. We want to make sure that any aircraft in Nigeria’s airspace is safe. The most important thing is that no mishap will happen again, so we have to prevent that,” he said.
They should publish the names of those clamouring for Dana Air to come back. Since when has safety been a serious consideration of the aviation industry regulators? This whole thing smacks of desperation on the part of people with vested interests.
Also reacting to the clamour, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said: “The operations of Dana Airlines were suspended by the Federal Government of Nigeria following the intense emotions and sentiments that greeted the plane crash. It was the Federal Government’s reaction to the anguish that pervaded the country in the aftermath of the crash.”
Referring to the anguish of families of the victims of the Dana Air crash and majority of Nigerians as “…intense emotion and sentiments…” is unfortunate. It says a lot about the disdain these people have for Nigerians. It’s apparent that left to them, Dana Air would have been allowed to continue flying.
The agency said however it was working with the Lagos State Government to ensure that all bodies of the victims were released to their families for burial.
“Similarly, NCAA is also working with and monitoring Dana Airlines to ensure that adequate compensation is paid to the families of the victims. The initial (payment of) US$30,000 would have been completed but for sundry cases of multiple claims waiting to be resolved. In the second phase, beneficiaries will be required to present letters from the probate and the US$70,000 installment will be paid.
“Definitely, money cannot replace lives but all the necessary procedures have to be adhered to and equity upheld. However, Dana can continue to carry out maintenance of their aircraft while it is not out of place to operate outside the country until all issues surrounding the suspension of their AOL (Air Operator’s Licence) is resolved,” the NCAA said.
The above statements are so incoherent that you wonder if the speaker gave some thought to what s/he was saying. NCAA has done little or nothing with respect to this air crash to engender confidence in the Agency’s ability to steer the affairs of the Aviation industry. As I mentioned in my previous article on this crash, what measures have NCAA put in place to facilitate interactions with airline passengers? Does NCAA have an interactive website where passengers can go to make their grievances with airline operators known? What of Whistle Blowing policy? The Aviation industry is too important to the proper functioning of the household units in the country for it to be left in the hands inept operators and regulators.
All Dana Air management and its collaborators are doing here is taking advantage of the poverty prevalent in the country.
THISDAY checks at the weekend revealed that there are concerns in the aviation industry that the continued suspension of the airline would lead to loss of jobs and attendant suffering by the employees and their dependants. Before the crash, the airline had 520 employees most of whom were Nigerians and hundreds of other Nigerians were sustained by Dana Air operations.
This is the height of dealing in trivialities. We cannot allow a murderous organization to continue in business under the guise of employment generation. The death of hapless c.160 Nigerians on June 03, 2012 as a result of the negligence of Dana Air management and the Aviation industry regulators has set us back so much that anyone talking about Nigerians in Dana Air’s employ as a basis for restoring their flight operations is plain wicked.
According to industry experts, it is not a standard rule that when an airline is involved in a crash its operations are suspended. Rather, such an airline could be grounded for a few days to inspect its aircraft and ensure that what caused the accident was not inherent in the airline’s fleet before it is allowed to operate again, while its insurance company attends to the issue of compensation.
Travel and Tourism expert, Ikechi Uko, told THISDAY that the idea of suspending an airline when its plane is involved in a crash is an aberration, which has become a culture in Nigeria.
“Dana Air’s accident came at a time the political environment was bad for aviation. So the airline bore the brunt of everything that was wrong in the environment. You don’t pray for a crash, so when it took place, the airline was not prepared on how to handle it.”
“The first time an airline’s flight crashed and it was stopped from flying it was punitive; it was a political decision to stop it, but it set a wrong precedent,” he added.
The statement credited to Ikechi Uko is atypical. Mischievous people refer to standards when it is convenient to do so. If Dana Air complied with international operating standards, the nation would have been spared the ugly incident of that Black Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone organizes a one-million man march and tags it ‘Youths Earnestly Ask for Dana Air’ (YEADA) very soon. We’ve seen it before. In a nation of 160 million people, it’s not out of place to have some notorious outliers, whose god is their belly, make patronising remarks about serious issues. I guess that’s part of the irritants in a democratic nation.
The fact is that we are tired of keeping quiet while some treacherous people take the majority for a ride.
Enough is enough!