22 June 2012

Nigeria: Crash - Keep Sealed Lips, Minister Orders Aviation Agencies

Photo: This Day
Dana plane crash site.

The Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, has directed officials of aviation agencies not to comment on the ill-fated Dana Air crash that killed 153 persons on board on June 3, 2012 until the report of the investigation is out.

This was contained in the memo the Minister presented to the Joint Committee of the National Assembly during the public hearing on the crash on Tuesday.

"None of the parastatals or agencies can comment or speculate on the immediate or remote causes of the accident until the investigation is concluded."

The directive was given so that the investigation should not be influenced or pre-empted with the hope that the body assigned to investigate the crash would do a thorough job.

The minister said that in accordance to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 13, government had invited representatives of US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the manufacturers of the aircraft (The Boeing Company, USA), and the engines (Pratt and Whitney USA) have all joined the AIB team investigating the accident.

"Also, the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of the ill-fated flight have been taken to the NTSB Laboratory in Washington DC, USA for readout and analysis. This capability, which can improve the time it takes to conclude an Accident

Investigation by the AIB, would have been achieved this year if not for budget constraints," the minister said.

She disclosed to the legislators that a family support and call centre was established at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)'s premises on the day of the tragedy, which has been receiving calls and offered information and counselling to family members of the victims.

She also explained that "The AIB's investigation is in line with the Civil Aviation Act 2006 and International Standards and Best Practices.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in its document (Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation), which is dedicated to aircraft accident and incident investigation, recommends that ICAO signatory countries establish an independent body dedicated to aircraft accident investigations. This recommendation led to the establishment of the Nigerian AIB."

The minister emphasised that: "The sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents. It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability", in accordance to ICAO Annex 13.

But despite the on-going AIB investigation, government had to set up another committee because "it became clear from the public reaction to the Dana Air accident that there is a need to assure the Nigerian public that the Federal Government is committed to maintaining a very high level of aviation safety in the country."

She said the objective for establishing this panel was to ensure that any contributory systemic 'blindsides' that might have existed in the industry up till now would be brought to light so that "they can be addressed to enhance the overall safety of Nigeria's aviation industry. We believe that the existence and terms of reference of the Panel will help to give Nigerians the assurance that the Federal Government is doing everything to maintain a high level of safety in our aviation industry and by so doing, help Nigerians regain confidence in the industry."

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