NIGERIA’S AVIATION SECTOR AND THE FLYING CASKETS

Last Thursday, the Associated Airline plane conveying the body of the late former Governor of Ondo State crashed killing Sixteen of the occupants on board while Five of them survived.

The crashsite of last Thursday's air mishap.
The crashsite of last Thursday’s air mishap.

It again brought attention to Nigeria’s aviation sector which in recent times has been bashed on all sides following the Dana Airline crash more than a year ago which claimed more than a hundred lives.

As usual, the business of Associated Airlines have been suspended, as well as that of Dana (surprisingly), based on what the authorities say is an audit on the compliance level of the airline with laid down rules and regulations.

Interestingly, a Kabo Airlines plane airlifting passengers/pilgrims from Kano to Jeddah for this years’ Hajj, had its tyres burst midair and had to crash land in a neighbouring state with no attendant loss of lives, over the weekend.

One begins to wonder if those landings one considered normal hadn’t been some mild crash landings.

There’s no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria’s aviation sector requires remediation. It hasn’t also gone without notice the effort of the current aviation minister to give Nigeria’s airports a facelift. However, one is tempted to wonder if just that is enough.

Shouldn’t a wholistic approach to finding a solution to the challenges bedevilling that sector be sought and solved?

Senator Smart Adeyemi raised the issue of corruption and it’s impact on the aviation sector at the floor of the National Assembly today, opining that the ill-fated plane conveying the late former governor had just undergone repairs and was on a test-flight to Akure (which explains why there were engineers on board), and wasn’t meant to be carrying passengers talk more conveying a corpse, and the fact that all those people were on board the plane simply meant that there was a ‘rubbing of the palms’.

Corruption is quite rife in Nigeria and there’s no way a sensitive sector especially as it concerns safety and the lives of passengers, like aviation could be immune from it’s debilitating activities.

Efforts have been made in the past by government to correct this anomaly, by strengthening the hands of airline operators via loans with less stringent conditions, to reduce the penchant for the airlines to cut corners in a bid to cut cost.

Unfortunately, most of the owners (and boards of directors) of the airlines that were fortunate to have benefited from the largesse thought better to invest it into other businesses, infact one of the airlines (owned by Jimoh Ibrahim) closed down after what he did with the funds came to light, and staff revolted and went on strike over unpaid salaries.

I know that ministers aren’t necessarily meant to be professionals of the ministries they oversee, seeing that most times the positions are more of political in nature, but one would’ve thought that a sensitive ministry such as aviation should be manned by an aviation expert just as the health and justice ministries (amongst a few others) are manned by professionals of the respective ministries. It was ironic to hear the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah (who has no aviation background) tell journalists yesterday that the aviation sector as technical as it is isn’t one in which novices could simply pass comments about things they know absolutely nothing about, in a veiled reaction to a criticism of the aviation sector by another former aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani Kayode (also without aviation backgrounds).

The above situations highlights the condition under which Nigeria’s aviation sector is run and may not surprise many that the incidence of air crashes continue unabated with a new one pointing to lapses in a different part of the industry.

As usual aviation experts have invaded our airwaves inundating us with technical and non-technical aspects of what might have happened and what should be done to avert future calamities of this type. Surprisingly, I’ve not seen or heard from the perennial expert and darling of the media at times of crashes, in the person of the chairman of the Aviation Roundtable in the person of Group Captain Obakpolor, since the tragic incidence of last Thursday happened.

It’s true that many things are beyond human comprehension and certain disasters are really beyond man’s capacity to avert but we’ve seen time and again, instances where airline operators in Nigeria treated (and some still do) planes like they were motor vehicles, unfortunately when planes breakdown mid-air, there’s usually no place to PARK up there!

‘kovich

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