Sunday, October 20, 2013

Associated Airline Plane Crash, One Disaster Too Many

By: GEORGE OKOJIE on October 20, 2013 - 4:39am

Just hours after marking the country’s 53rd Independence anniversary, Nigerians were jolted by the sad news of the crash of an aircraft shortly after take off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, lagos. GEORGE OKOJIE, writes that the October 3 crash which involved an airplane belonging to Associated Airlines is a case of one air disaster to many

It takes a twinkle of an eye for disasters to occur, but when they do the impact is always profound, leaving the victims to suck their wounds and reel in pains for a very long time.

 Thus, in climes where human lives are accorded value, conscious efforts are made on constant basis to ensure that safety standards are not compromised.

 But in Nigeria such measures that would ensure safety of lives and property are treated with kid gloves. Not even the DANA air plane disaster that left unforgettable pains in many household could nip the problem in the bud.

 Overtime, the results have been evidenced in the series of building collapses, violent killings, road and plane crashes claiming many innocent lives on regular basis.

 The trend is so worrisome because this is happening at a time other developed countries of the world fill their skyline with many aircraft at the same time like the birds of the air, affirming that it is the safest form of transportation, even as they take buildings to the skies.

The latest in the series of aircraft tragedy struck again in Lagos on Wednesday, October 2,  when an Embraer 120 plane belonging to Associated Airlines conveying the remains of late former Governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Agagu crashed killing at least 13 people who had woken up hail and hearty assuring their wards that they would go and attend the funeral and come back.

 Unfortunately their lives were cut short as the aircraft crash landed within two minutes after take off from the Murtala  Muhhammed Airport in Lagos.

 To underscore the high level of moral decadence in the country, as people and government agencies made frantic efforts to save lives of the victims, some hoodlums swooped on the smouldering plane, carting away huge sums of  money and other valuable items belonging to the victims.

Lamenting the trend, a security guard identified as Sunday Hameed working at the Joint Users Hydrant Installation depot located very close  to where the plane crashed told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the hoodlums rushed into the premises and robbed the victims.

According to him, “I was about going home when the plane crashed here at the back of our depot. Some people were crying please help, please help, but instead of assisting us to help the victims, these area boys rushed in and started collecting their money, phones and wrist watches. This kind of attitude we have in this country is not good.”

Worst still observers have been afraid that the death toll will rise because of the poor medical facilities in the country and incessant strikes often embarked upon by the health officials in the country. But so far so good the nation’s health sector has managed to live above board.

  Allaying fears of relatives, the President of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) chapter, Dr Jimi Sodipo told LEADERSHIP Sunday that his colleagues are in the hospital to save the lives of the crash victims.

Sodipo maintained that resident doctors have been on ground which made it possible for them to mobilise them to assist the consultant doctors who are treating the crash victims.

 According to him, “We don’t want patients to lose their lives and we don’t want the total breakdown of the system.

 “We have spoken with the National President of the association and he’s very happy with our efforts so far and he has also asked us to intensify it to ensure that all emergencies are covered and that is why you can see that we are in the hospital at this point.

 “We were on ground yesterday and we are still on ground now to ensure no life is lost as a result of the on-going strike action. Doctors are working to ensure that everyone that has been brought in alive, leaves the hospital alive.”

 A doctor who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said,” You know this is a national issue and it is sensitive. But I can tell you we worked throughout the night to keep them in a stable condition here in LASUTH. The Lagos State Commissioner of Health Dr Jide Idris was actively involved. In fact he was communicating with the governor regularly and consultants were also brought in to stabilize the patients.”

 For the relatives, the process of identifying their loved ones lost in the tragic incident has not been easy, given the Lagos state government directives that a DNA test be conducted on the 13 charred bodies to ascertain their true owners.

 Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, Mr Eugene Duru, elder brother of Duru Chijoke who lost his life in the crash said, “my brother I know is dead I have been here with his wife and little child since morning they are throwing us here and there. They did not allow us to see even his corpse.”

 The process is too cumbersome and there is bound to be delays. We want to go back to bury and mourn my brother. I was told my brother was not totally burnt he is my brother from the same womb I spent all my money to bring him up, I will know him, even if it remains his fingers”.

The older Duru who sobbed thereafter like a baby added, “Chijoke was my hope for good things but cruel death snatched him so that we will continue to suffer.”

For Ebolonu Eugene a brother of Kingsley Amaechi a staff of MIC that also lost his life, his demise is irreplaceable.

He said, “Kingsley’s death is big blow to us. He was a very nice brother to us using everything he had to help us. My life can never be the same again. He was supporting me financially but now he’s no more.”

As expected, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, has come out to say that the crashed plane had a subsisting Air Operators Certificate, AOC, and had a current Certificate of Airworthiness, known as (C of A) which was supposed to expire on 22 October, 2013.

 Adamu Ahmed Abdullahi, the Director of Consumer Protection at NCAA said Associated Aviation Limited last operated their aircraft on August 30, before it crashed yesterday, killing 13 people.

 He said the airline only conducts chartered operations.

 According to him, the Brazilian made Embraer 120 aircraft marked 5N-BJY could carry up to 30 passengers and was registered in Nigeria on May 22, 2007.

 The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority added that the Embraer 120 propeller aircraft had a current certificate of airworthiness valid till twenty-second of October 2013.

 Abdullahi added that the aircraft has an active insurance policy valid till fourteenth of June 2013, and also disclosed that the aircraft was certified fit for flying by one of the airline’s maintenance engineers who unfortunately was also killed in the crash.

 All these claims informed stakeholder who are skeptical of the outcome of the probe ordered by the Federal Government as saying the crash should be thoroughly investigated to unravel the cause.

 More so that there are fundamental posers that the ill-fated aircraft which was registered in Nigeria on the twenty-second of May 2007 was already twenty-three years old as at the time of the crash.

 Like the former Lagos State Governor and National leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu remarked on Saturday when he returned to the country, three months after successfully undergoing knee surgery, it was high time the Federal Government sanitized the aviation sector.

He said “it is a lesson to the government; unfortunately we are talking to deaf ears. Nigeria’s aviation sector is a risk. We have never allowed professionals to run the aviation industry. We created so much bureaucracy and kinsmanship, ethnicity, mediocrity to intervene in our decisions; we play with the lives of Nigeria.

“This runway that I landed on is one of the worst in the world, it doesn’t meet world standard. You allow non-professionals, fraudsters, corrupt persons to dominate the ministry; we have to remove corruption that is a cancer in our society.”


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