Penultimate Sunday, Nigerians witnessed one of the most bloody, painful and devastating air mishaps in recent history that for once, in months, united the nation in grief and ignited in nearly all, a rare urgency for human empathy that normally separates man from beast. It was the day that DANA Air Flight 9J-0992 from Abuja to Lagos crashed at Iju-Ishaga, killing crew and all passengers on board.
But the crash recorded even more . Apart from the more than 150 passengers and six crew members, the plane which rammed into a residential area also claimed lives of unsuspecting residents, and many to wonder, were indeed was ever safe in Nigeria.
Expectedly, Nigeria mourned the dead and for three days flew the national flag at half mast while the Federal Government in addition ordered a full-scale investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the disaster. Indeed, for once, Nigerians were united that the probe needed to go beyond the immediate and cover the aviation industry and of necessity, all other domestic scheduled operators.
Among many institutions like the National Assembly, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and other notable Nigerians, former Lagos State Governor and National leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, warned that Nigerians could be spared further heart-breaking aircraft mishaps (only) if government addressed the root cause of the problem.
Insisting that even after the three-day national mourning ordered by President Goodluck Jonathan in honour of the dead, the agonies and pains of those that lost their loved ones would continue, Tinubu advised government to tighten regulations and ensure standards, revalidate the operational licences and aircraft airworthiness of all operators and enforce compliance with safety rules.
As if heeding that advice, the National Council of State and indeed the Federal Executive Council at different fora, after observing special sessions in soulful reverence of the dead also endorsed a broad probe into operations of all domestic airlines with a view to ascertaining their air worthiness.
Aviation Minister, Stella Odua-Ogienwonyi last mid-week told newsmen that President Jonathan had approved the appointment of a nine-man technical and administrative panel to audit all Arlines operating in the country. The committee which is to be inaugurated today, has an aeronautical engineer, Group Captain John Obakpolor (rtd) as chairman and Captain Austin Omame, Captain A. Mshella, Capt Mfon Udom and Captain Dele Sasegbon as members. Others are Dr O.B.Aliu, Felix Onyeyiri, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau, Captain Muhtar and the Director-General NIMET, Dr Anthony Anuforom, all qualified aviation professionals with many years of experience.
Yes, the probe cannot bring back the dead. It cannot also restore the future of the innocent helpless and defenceless children burnt in the crash, like those of Maimuna Ayene, whose four children, including a set of twins, all aged two years and below. Infact, Maimuna died along with nine other members of her family, her husband Onyeka, her four children, Kamsiyonna (two years) the twins, Kayimarachi and Kayinetochi (one year), Noah (seven months old), her sister, her two cousins and her mother-in-law. It cannot indeed wipe away, so easily, memories of all the dead, from the minds of those they loved. But while mourning the dead, there is also the need to protect the living against similar harm.
That in brief, must have informed the need for the audit committee which terms of reference include; To thoroughly review the maintenance practices of DANA Air as well as all other domestic scheduled operators and assess their level of compliance with the Nigerian Civil Aviation regulations; To assess the effectiveness or otherwise of the NCAA’s over-sight of the maintenance practices of domestic scheduled carriers and other regulatory aspects; and, To examine the management practices and safety culture existing in DANA Air up to the time of the accident.
Other terms include; To examine the management practices and safety culture of all domestic scheduled carriers; and finally; To make findings and bold recommendations to the Federal Government on all of the reference terms, (already listed) with a view to significantly improving the safety of the Nigerian Air space.
Frankly, it is difficult to appreciate the source of worry now being expressed by some aviation stakeholders under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON)who are said to be totally opposed to the Federal Government’s review of the domestic airlines operations and ascertain the fitness of their aircrafts.
The operators had in a protest, last week Wednesday, argued that the government’s move violated international best practices in the industry, insisting that there exist already global outfits charged with such responsibilities.
Instead of, “attempting to make the airlines the scapegoat for the decay in the sector”, the group asked government to accept the blame for the rot because, according to the AON, the situation was a product of inconsistency in aviation policies.
Like what? Licensing virtually grounded airlines to operate in Nigeria? Not exercising sufficient over-sight on domestic scheduled operators? Or not properly fore-warning the unsuspecting air passengers of ill-maintained aircrafts and which resulted in the fatal crash? What exactly.
Rather than offer answers to these questions which would have informed Nigerians better, the operators seemed more interested in safeguarding their operational licences and lifeline by whipping-up the sentiment that such a probe would affect the AA rating already enjoyed by Nigerian Airlines.
Describing government’s decision to set up the nine –member audit committee as misplaced, the operators expressed the fear that it could work against Nigeria’s interest because it undermined the status category one and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.
Secretary-General of AON, Mohammed Joji was quoted as saying that by the action, Government had set aside the functions of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which are saddled with the audit of the airworthiness of aircrafts and investigation into accidents.
According to him, the panel had sent wrong signals to the international community, which would see Nigeria as undermining Aviation Laws, especially, when the United States Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) had given Nigeria Category One, almost two years ago.
Now, the questions are: if the DANA Air crash, with its attendant huge human casualties had occurred a day to the issuance of the Category One crown, would the US –FAA have gone ahead to issue the excellence card without necessary questions ? Was the ill-fated DANA airline that crashed into a Lagos residence, killing a cow tied to a mango tree, defenceless men, women and children, inspected by the same US-FAA before its take-off from Abuja? Or did the Category One rating granted Nigeria prevent the DANA Airline from crashing in Lagos? Or is there something else that the airline operators fear other than loving Nigeria more than Nigerians? Finally, in what way would an audit of the kind now ordered, negatively affect their operations, if indeed, some of them are not just another DANA waiting to happen?
At a time like this, when, bereaved families are not only mourning loved ones, but also seeking answers that would prevent any repeat, the operators’ protest is not only selfish, it smarks of insensitivity to the inate fears of would-be air travelers. Rather than kick against the audit, the operators ought to be in the vanguard of fishing out bad-eggs likely to rubbish the almighty Category One certificate, the country enjoys and which benefits the operators, even more.
Or, is it a reharsh of the now very over-used cliché, the guilty are afraid? I ask because, try as I have to understand the worries of the AON, I am still left guessing. By choosing existing structures, to which the operators are very familiar, rather than a fresh probe committee, does it not seem that the operators have more than what they have expressed, to fear for?
These are times when, anti-government sentiments sell so, flying this kite will help polarize the grieving nation, along fresh politically induced divides. Is this the card being played by the operators to fore-stall extensive assessment of the air-worthiness of domestic scheduled airlines? Not sure this can sell, because no reasonable Nigerian, least of all the political class that equally patronizes such airlines, if not more frequently, will play politics with own safety and of others’ lives.
This is why the protest of the AON seems to me a stench oozing out of a mundane gargole and should be ignored, even avoided for all the right reasons.
My Agony is that the domestic airlines operators are too eager to blackmail Nigeria with what America will think, rather than see in the audit, their own opportunity to properly ascertain the worthiness of their own airlines and better ensure safety of Nigerians and even foreigners living here.
This is not the right way to ensure that the souls of the dead rest in peace, the AON option, methinks is an invitation to sharp practices akin to the dealings between two familiar friends, as obtained between Clearing Agents and ethically depraved, Customs agents, in years past. That can instead force souls of the dead suffer imperfect rest.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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