interviewBy Anozie Egole
As tears from victims' families of the DANA air crash continue to flood property and human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu listed conditions under which they and residents as well as landlords of the crash site will be adequately compensated. Excerpt:
Can you explain the provisions of the civil aviation act 2006?
In the first place, the Civil Aviation Act 2006 covers issues relating to accidents in the air involving aircraft. But I think also that there is some confusion regarding the way the law is drafted as to whether the aviation act related only to international carriage or even local carriage. For me, I know that under the law, there are some conventions that govern carriage of people and goods by air.
In section 48 of the Civil Aviation Act 2006, stipulated that the convention that deals with the international carriage by air is also applicable in Nigeria to domestic flights. In trying to know what to pay, we will also try to look at the provisions of the conventions. Article 17 of that convention makes it clear that owners or operators of air craft are liable for any injury or death that results on board of an aircraft while embarking or disembarking.
Barrister Bamidele Aturu
So it makes it clear that this is a strict liability provision. In the sense that, once you can prove that there was an injury or death, the operator of the airline under this article 17 of the convention which is applicable by the virtue of declaration act of section 48 (2) is liable to pay compensation to victims or their relatives. When there is this type of problem under section 48 (3), the victim's relatives are entitled to an advance payment of at least $30,000 within 30 days of such accident.
How would victims of Dana Air crash be compensated?
DANA crash took place on 3rd June 2012 and by 3rd of July 2012, they ought to be paid advance payment of $30,000 to each member of the affected family. As far there is an evidence to prove that somebody boarded your plane, like the ticket, the law stipulates that you pay the advance payment within one month. I think that is the reason why they are conducting a DNA test on the victims to ascertain whether they are entitled to the payment.
The point I am making is that the airline in certain cases can also be sued by members of the family if they can prove that there was a special contract between the victim and the airline and if they can also prove that there was negligence on the part of the airline operators. On the other hand, the carrier cannot pay more than $100,000 except if the victim was able to prove that there was negligence on the side of the carrier.
What about the family that lost all its members?
Talking about a family who lost almost all the members of the family, the next of kin takes the benefit. Under the administration of estate in law which is also applicable in Lagos State, we have those who can benefit from the compensation, like the wife or the children. If these people are no more, the brother/sister, parents, and uncle among others can now come in. The law tells us who can benefit from the compensation in such circumstance.
Sir, you said something about compensating passengers who are on board the flight, but in the case of this DANA crash, some residents who were not on board were also affected, what is your opinion about that?
Yes. The victims who were not on board, with the help of a lawyer, they can make case against operator DANA. Because, under our law, there are many principles of tort that were picked which deals on how airline operates. There is a law which stipulates that if you leave something in a place and the thing cause damage to another person, you are liable to pay strictly for the damage/damages you caused to another person without any proof of negligence.
With this law, DANA operators are strictly liable to pay for the damages to the landlord of the house they crashed and also for the properties in the house. Because as at that June 3rd, the man's house was normal until DANA in the course of doing their own business destroyed the house, so they will pay for everything if the man goes to court.