After taking swipes at each other on Twitter over the Associated Airline crash, former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, has challenged the incumbent Minister, Stella Oduah, to a debate, to discuss how to address the challenges bedeviling the sector. Mr. Fani-Kayode threw the gauntlet in an interview on Channels Television where he declared that officials in charge of the nation's aviation industry are not doing something right hence the plane crashes.
"I will not shy away from letting them (aviation authorities) know that they may not be doing things rightly," he said. "I seek a platform to debate with the Minister in person, no aide, no special adviser, no special assistant, just one-on-one with her to let her know that she is not doing something right."
Nigeria has recorded eight plane crashes in the last 24 months, with about 200 people killed. The latest one occurred on October 3, in which 13 out of the 20 passengers aboard an Associated Airline plane conveying the body of a deceased former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu, lost their lives. The Aviation Minister reportedly told journalists in Abuja, soon after the crash that "accidents are inevitable" and "they are act of God." Mr. Fani-Kayode subsequently called for her resignation in one of his opinions.
"If you say it is just an act of God, you don't give confidence to Nigerian flyers. You are saying, I just don't care and that is not right. We need militant attitude on the job because there must be no half-measures in the sector," Mr. Fani-Kayode said.
Suggesting the way forward for the sector, Mr. Fani-Kayode, who boasted that there were no plane crashes during his seven-month stint as Aviation Minister, called for militant action in the aviation sector. He explained that the success of his tenure was hinged on full compliance with all regulations, militancy on doing the job by getting rid of all unnecessary people, compassion over the increasing deaths, hard work and prayer.
"During my tenure in the Ministry, every agency was working at 100 per cent with military precision; not 90 per cent or 99 per cent but 100. Then, people were confident of flying, but three months after my departure, there was another crash." He emphasised on the need to put the institution safety mechanisms across the nation's airspace ahead of the ongoing expansion of terminals and remodeling of airports. "I'll rather prefer an ugly airport with a safe sky than a beautiful airport with killing skies," he said.
Inconsistent but necessary
Mr. Fani-Kayode pointed out the inconsistency of the aviation authorities when it awarded Dana Air as the best in the country soon after restoring its suspended license. The airline had been grounded following the Dana Air Flight 992 crash in June, 2012 which saw the death of all 153 passengers on board.
"When I was Minister, I grounded more planes than any other Minister in the country, including airlines of my very close friends- such as (Buba) Marwa and Jimoh Ibrahim- because their airlines could not meet up with the industries capital base and their airplanes were too old. Sosoliso and ADC have never flown again after their crashes because we grounded them after their crash."
He, however, deemed calls to scrap the Aviation Ministry as ridiculous.
"It is like saying because the Army has a command regime, they should not have a GOC," he said.