The Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, yesterday shed light on why the licences of Kabo and Arik Airlines were not suspended, following their recent operational lapses which almost resulted in Kabo Air's near accident in Sokoto and Arik Air's return flight to Abuja from Calabar.
Addressing the media in Abuja, Oduah said the suspension of Dana licence was not punitive but for the safety of the industry as there was need to safeguard the lives of Nigerians travelling by air.
She said: "What we did by suspending Dana's operations is not making scapegoat of anyone. "To suspend means that there must be operational lapses and non-compliance with the policy but it is always in tandem with international practice." With regards to Kabo Air, Oduah said: "What is key is that we must realise that there is a shared responsibility, there is a collective responsibility, pilots are responsible, operators are responsible, regulators are responsible, government is responsible and all these must work together otherwise there will be a gap in the system."
She stated that Kabo Air was responsible for its near mishap in Sokoto, adding: "It was an operator's fault on an elected approach procedures which resulted in the burst tyre.
"We have to determine whether that was enough cause for us to allow a complete grounding.
"However, Arik had an air return based on a different circumstance, it did a flight from Abuja to Calabar, the airport had been closed and there is no way it could have landed without the possibility of endangering the lives of those on board. So the only safe thing to do was to come back to Abuja which was appropriate."
She, however, added that the two airlines were being penalised for their negligence. "We are applying sanction to the airlines though these are not advertised.
"And on Dana Air we have to follow a trend in airworthiness, there must be a continuous audit. So it is not that anybody is being persecuted and that government was being selective. We are doing what we are doing in the interest of the Nigerian public."
On the recent sanction imposed on Dana, she said: "It is not punitive, it is strictly policy and administrative as the regulator must follow and the end result is that passengers must be safe. Security and safety must be prioritised. It is not because anybody doesn't work like Dana."
On the issue of Associated Airlines not having proper insurance policy, she said: "At this point, we need to stop speculating truly. In a little while, we are going to have the preliminary report and it will tell us the state of the insurance, whether it is there or not.
In another development, Oduah took a swipe at the former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, describing him as being ignorant of contemporary issues in the industry. Oduah, spoke at an aviation safety workshop organised by the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, which was hosted by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). She said: "Fani-Kayode in his recent comments was misleading innocent Nigerians and needed sympathy."
She added: "I have huge sympathy for them, the ignorant people in particular. Because when you speak out of context, when you speak under the influence of whatever it is you are under, you speak incorrectly and you mislead innocent Nigerians and that is what he (Fani-Kayode), has done. And he really should hide his head in shame."
The minister, who noted that in spite of the crash of the Associated Airline plane, asserted that the country's airspace was very safe, adding that government had upgraded airports infrastructure and was putting in place policies that would guide the industry efficiently through the various on-going reforms.
"But most importantly is the training and re-training of our personnel. So the Nigerian airspace is one of the best. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) actually graded us to be above 60 per cent and not only that, we are among the 12 countries globally that are very conscious of safety," she said.
But in a swift reaction, Fani-Kayode advised Oduah to get serious and focus on doing her job rather than attempting to smear him with lies and malicious innuendos.
He said: "I raised some serious issues in that essay that were clearly above her education level and I avoided personal insults. That is what civilsed people do. She should learn from that and address the issues that were raised rather than spend her time trying to kill the messenger. When someone says that God is the author of fatal crashes, you know that it is not the same God that we worship as that person.
Meanwhile, the management of Kabo Airlines has suspended its pilot who had an emergency landing at the Sokoto Airport last Friday.
This was disclosed in Abuja yesterday by the Director-General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, during an interactive session with journalists.
Kabo plane was conveying 512 passengers from the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano, en route Saudi Arabia when it had to do an emergency landing at the Sokoto Airport. After the plane landed, it was discovered that its tyres were deflated and it damaged some parts of the instrument landing system at the airport. The pilot also did not comply with the directive given by air traffic controller on duty that the plane should land on runway 08, but rather diverted to another runway.
The passengers on board, who were on pilgrimage to Mecca were safely evacuated and subsequently transferred to another aircraft, which took them to their destination.