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Senate Investigates Resurgence Of Air Mishaps

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The Senate has condemned what it described as the resurgence of air mishaps in the country, and mandated its committees on Navy, Air force and Aviation to investigate the frequency of these mishaps.

The Senate also called on government to publish all previous reports of investigative panels into air crashes in the country.

Senate took these decisions in Abuja on Tuesday following a debate on a motion sponsored by Sen. Chris Anyanwu (APGA-Imo).

The debate is on the urgent need to investigate the recent crash of Naval Augusta Helicopter in Bayelsa.

Leading the debate on the motion, Anyanwu said that in 2007 and 2011, there had been two crashes of similar Augusta helicopters owned by the navy.

She expressed concerns over the seeming recurrence of air mishaps not just in civil aviation, but also in the Nigerian Military in spite of public outcry.

“Between March and October 2011, there were three reported cases of air mishaps by the Air force at different locations in the country and the causes of these crashes remain unknown.

“On March 21, 2011, one F7-NI fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force that was on a routine training programme crashed in Kano, killing the flight instructor.

“The fighter jet, which was reported to have come from Makurdi for a two week training exercise was delivered to the Air force by the manufacturers in China only a few days before the incident,” she said.

According to her, it is worrisome that the resurgence of air mishaps in the country is suggestive of a deep seated systems problem which must be unearthed and resolved.

Contributing to the debate, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri (PDP-Bayelsa) urged the committee to ensure that its investigation was devoid of bias and should not be politicised.

“We should use this crash to stop others from occurring because this has become embarrassing, so the committee’s investigation must be total,’’ he said.

Sen. Danjuma Goje (PDP-Gombe) also advised the committee to make the investigation open and transparent.

Goje said he was in support of the position of the Governors Forum that foreign experts should be involved in the investigation.

On his part, Sen. Olubunmi Adetumbi (ACN-Ekiti) said that the death of Yakowa, Azazi and others was as a result of the failure of the system to address the issue of corruption.

According to Adetumbi, the crashed helicopter is called a military training helicopter, but it is obviously not being used for military training on that day.

He said that pertinent questions, such as who authorised the use of the helicopter for civilian purposes must be asked and answers given.

“Who gave the order for the chopper to be used. What is the purpose of private charter helicopter. Why was a private chopper not hired. Is it what the Navy appropriation is being used for?” Adetumbi asked.

He called on the parliament to do more than paying tribute to the deceased and observing one minute silence in their honour, but to take action to forestall future occurrences.

Sen. Ganiyu Solomon (ACN Lagos) also said that there had been several crashes and investigations followed, but the reports had never seen the light of the day.

He was of the view that the committee should go as far as visiting the manufacturers of these planes to ascertain their air worthiness.

He expressed concerns that if military planes were crashing frequently, it was an indication that the military was not prepared for military action should the need arise.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary said that more than 50,000 Nigerians had died in the last two years since the ugly trend of terrorism reared its head.

Ekweremadu, however, called on the regulatory agencies in the aviation sector to ensure the airworthiness of every plane that took off and landed in the country.

The deputy senate president also noted the need for the Senate to buckle up and tackle the problem once and for all.

The Senate set up two committees to pay condolence visits to all the victims of the air crash and observed a minute silence in their honour.

Meanwhile, the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was adjourned to another legislative day.

The Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba (PDP-Cross River) had proposed that the lead debate be taken on Tuesday as the first allotted day.

Senators, however, noted that in view of the motion that had just been taken on air crash and the mood of the nation over the incident there was need to adjourn for the day.

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Aviation

COVID-19: Arik Airline Sacks 300 Staff

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At least 300 staff of Arik Air have been relieved of their appointments by the airline’s management.

This was announced in a statement by the airline on Friday.
It blamed the sacking on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The press statement was titled, “Arik Air management declares 300 staff redundant”.
The company explained that a redundancy package would be provided for the affected workers with the help of the aviation unions.
The statement read in part, “Arising from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the constrained ability of the airline to complete heavy maintenance activities and return its planes to operations, stunted revenues against increasing operational costs, the management of Arik Air (In Receivership) has declared 300 staff members redundant to its current level of operations.
“The leadership of the impacted unions has been contacted to negotiate a redundancy package for the affected staff.”
The airline added that over 50 per cent of its workforce of over 1,600 staff have been on furlough in the past six months.
In a separate statement also forwarded to our correspondent by its Public Relations and Communications Manager, Banji Ola, the airline apologised to passengers whose travel plans were disrupted by the protest carried out by the National Union of Air Transport Employees on December 3, 2020.
The picketing disrupted operations in Lagos and prevented the airline from processing passengers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal 1 and 2.

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S’East Leaders Laud FG Over EndSARS

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South-East leaders on Saturday, lauded the Federal Government on the matured and responsive manner it handled all issues relating to the EndSARS protest and agitation.
The leaders of the zone, which included Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members as well as traditional, religious and youth leaders, gave the commendation in a communiqué issued after their meeting with a Presidential delegation in Enugu.
The presidential delegation was led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who is the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We thank President Buhari for the speed and restraint with which he handled the EndSARS protest, which has engendered peace throughout the country, especially the South-East.
“We, therefore, request the President to look into demands of various groups and youths with a view to resolving them,’’ the statement, which was read by the Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, Governor Dave Umehi, said.
It also called for joint operation by security agencies and local vigilant groups into all forests in the zone to flush out criminals and killer herdsmen with AK47 rifles.
“But we pledge our commitment to continuous coexistence with peaceful herdsmen who have been living peacefully with us.
“We stand for an indivisible and united Nigeria, built on love, fairness, equity and justice. We believe that under this platform – NIGERIA; we are bigger and stronger,’’ it said.
It also called on the Federal Government to continue its support and diplomatic push for the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be elected as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The statement thanked the Federal Government for the timely interventions in Akanu Ibiam International Airport rehabilitation as well as intervention in road infrastructures in the zone.
“We are grateful for the attention given to the second Niger Bridge and completion and inauguration of the Zik’s mausoleum.
“However, we urge the Federal Government to give attention to the completion of the current road projects within the zone,’’ it said.
The statement said that the states in the zone will provide money for the compensation for those affected by the EndSARS protest, help to rebuild police stations and their logistics; while engaging the youths constantly to forestall any violent development in the zone.
“We have plans to set up various empowerment programmes to gainfully engage the youths. The governors also plan to mainstream the youths in their governance to give them a sense of belonging.

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Minister Hails Meeting With S’East Leaders

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described as “extremely fruitful” the meeting which a presidential team had with leaders and stakeholders of the South-East.
“The meeting of the presidential delegation with South-East leaders was very useful,’’ Mohammed told journalists on Sunday in Enugu.
The delegation, led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, met for more than eight hours in Enugu with selected South-East leaders.
Mohammed said that it was quite instructive that all the groups which took part in the meeting believed in the unity and oneness of the country, pointing out that they clearly spelt out this in their presentations.
“We listened clearly and carefully to all the positions and demands and we are going back to report directly to President Buhari,’’ the minister said.
He noted that the Federal Government had been spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country, simultaneously and equitably.
“We want the South-East people to be confident that the Federal Government is spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country equitably and will never marginalise any zone in the ongoing development and infrastructure agenda.
“This is what I want to assure Nigerians living in the South-East,’’ Mohammed noted.
According to the minister, when the team gets back to Abuja it will see what can be done immediately concerning some of the positions and demands made by the South-East leaders.
The presidential delegation met with South-East governors, statesmen, elders, religious and traditional leaders, as well as market women and youth leaders.

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