It’s been four days since the presidency ordered an unnecessary audit of Dana Air operations in Nigeria. This was a classic ‘playing to the gallery’ move by the government. Maybe, it wanted to show the world it really cared about protecting the lives of Nigerians.
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Clearly, after the mishandling of the Benue killings between Fulani herdsmen and farming communities, this action was an attempt to deflect attention. The sort of misdirection you would expect from an accomplished scam artist while the real crime is being perpetrated in plain sight.
Of course, most of the country applauded the President. But here is the problem with directives like these: it shows a lack a trust in the people charged with regulating the aviation industry. Apart from that, leaves a bad taste in the mouth as the discrimination involved is all too clear.
The presidency or those in charge of running the country had never directed anybody to audit companies in the road transport industry. The reason is quite obvious and depressing. They don’t care about the lives of the ordinary people. No matter how many fatal accidents occur daily, the government never gives an order for an audit.
This ‘us vs. them’ way of doing things is symptomatic of most government policies. That is a story for another day though.
A troubling two months of Dana Air Mishaps
As already stated, taken at face value, the order for the audit was aimed at heading off a bigger catastrophe: a fatal crash.
The June 2012 crash involving a Dana Air airplane is still fresh in the memories of majority of Nigerians who knew or heard about it. That June 3 day is one the people of Ishaga community would remember for a very long time. Not only did the plane crash in the community killing over 155 people on board, it also killed dozens of people in the two-storey building it crashed into.
Dana Air was able to clean its act and resume operations several months after its operating license was suspended. Since then, little has been heard about the airline as far as major accidents are concerned.
But on the 27th of January this year, an aircraft belonging to the company was in the news. It was reported that the left wing hit a fence at the National Azikiwe Airport Abuja as the plane was trying to find a parking spot.
This was a minor accident. However, the Dana Air involvement saw it blown out of proportion. It concentrated people’s mind on that crash six years ago.
Barely two weeks later on the 7th of February, another plane belonging to the company lost its emergency exit when it landed at the Abuja airport. Many of the passengers on board were traumatized by the experience. And on the 20th of February, Nigeria News reported how a different Dana Air aircraft overshot the runway as it was trying to stop on a runway made slick by rain.
The company claimed it wasn’t the fault of the pilot or as a result of some fault with the plane. The blame was placed squarely on the wet runway that made stopping the plane difficult. It should be noted though that nobody sustained any injuries in all three accidents.
However, the explanations by the company are most times laughable, to say the least. Take the case of a wet runway. If that were the case, Nigerians would be used to planes crashing into structures by now due to slippery tarmacs in the rainy season.
The Media and Communications manager of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, must take all Nigerians for fools to come up with that sort of excuse. That should also explain why he claimed a passenger was to blame for the emergency door mishap. Even without going into how silly that sounds, passengers sitting close to the door had already narrated how the door was rattling throughout the flight.
Kingsley Ezenwa should be a little creative with the lies and show us more respect, please. Clearly, somebody in the presidency became seriously alarmed by the inability of Dana Air to come up with credible explanations for the series of accidents.
But ordering an audit is almost like a man, who doesn’t know anything about cooking, ordering his wife to audit her culinary skills. Because anyhow you look at it, it was the government giving the regulatory agencies their marching orders when they have already been on the march for a long time.
NCAA and AIB: doing what exactly?
The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIB) are the two regulatory agencies in charge of making sure these sorts of accidents don’t happen.
The NCAA is the government agency that certifies the airworthiness of planes before allowing them to transport passengers. The AIB on the other hand are charged with investigating accidents to determine what happened and how they can be prevented in future.
The call by Aso Rock for an audit of the Dana points to incompetency at both NCAA and the AIB. Fact is, if both regulatory agencies are very effective, there would be no need to for that order and the Dana Air incidents would not be such a regular feature.
One hopes Captain Muhtar Shaibu Usman, the head of the NCAA, and his counterpart at the AIB, Akinola Olateru, haven’t allowed corruption to erode the professionalism expected of their staff.
The lives of the elites are at stake here; so sitting down and collecting huge salaries is just not good enough for our elites. There are rumors that staff at both agencies collect huge sums of money from the aviation companies to avoid a full, periodic check of planes.
In Nigeria, this is very possible. And the people in Aso Rock are very aware of this because many of them are culpable in such practices. Maybe the order to audit Dana Air was simply a warning to the regulatory agencies to forget the bribes and do their jobs or there would be consequences.