16 June 2012

Nigeria: Dana Air Crash - Fashola Assures Compensation for Victims' Families

As the dust generated by the Dana air crash is yet to settle, the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola has promised family members whose relations were involved in the ill-fated plane crash free legal aid in getting compensation from the airline.

The Governor who made this declaration during the week at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja ,assured that the office of the Public Defender will be available to handle all such legal matters free of charge for those who need the service.

"In terms of compensation," the office of Public Defender will provide legal services that the victims' families require without charge, and they can liaise with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice."

Governor Fashola who said the offer was voluntary,disclosed that the head of the Legal Department would constitute a legal team with representatives of the families so that the office would address legal issues as well as provide legal advice to those concerned.

He also disclosed that some vital decisions were taken at the meeting, and the families agreed, with the steps government have already taken and its process of investigation and identification of bodies before releasing them to the various families.

Governor Fashola said, "we have set up now a relationship team from government and who will be communicating specifically with them. "They have agreed to constitute some of their members to be representatives on the team so that we have a more coordinated approach to communication, sharing information, managing the release of the bodies that can be identified and generally working through all of the twists and turns that it will take,"

Describing the process as very painful and tedious, Governor Fashola, however, expressed confidence that success would be achieved at the end of it all, adding that the meeting was useful in helping both the government and the families to chart a common course going forward.

Earlier, one of the bereaved family members, Dr. Benjamin Iyene, pleaded with the Lagos State Government to do everything in its power to ensure that they get the bodies of their relations, pointing out that Nigerians are very attached to their dead.

It will recalled that there was a confusion over number tag attached.But hospital source stated that the mix-up caused problems which hindered victims' families from collecting their bodies. Also, the decision by the hospital that identified bodies cannot be released until DNA test has been concluded was not in the best interest of these families.There was also allegation of preferential treatment raised against LASUTH officials.

"All the VIP bodies involved in the crash had been released and taken away by thier relatives while the hospital authorities delay others for inexplicable reason",declared a victim's family.

Earlier,Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed who doubles as the head of committee on crash issue, said after the meeting they were still handling the matter critically, and would furnish the media with further developments in due course.

Sequel to the conclusions reached by the committee over matters relating to the crash issue, the Government, he assured will not organise any mass burial of victims of the Dana air crash.

The State's Chief Medical Examiner and Professor of Pathology,Professor Oladapo Obafunwa, in his remarks gave an insight into the work done so far in the identification process.He also assured the families that the remains of their relations were being well preserved as,according to him, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital has the best Pathology Department in the country.

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