- Senate Summons Aviation Minister Over Air Incidents
The Senate on Tuesday resolved to summon the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to address the chamber in plenary on the recent near air mishaps in the country.
This followed the adoption of a motion moved by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos-East) and 14 others, entitled, ‘The Need to Minimise the Possibility of Air Mishaps and Near Fatalities in Nigeria’.
The lawmakers unanimously granted the prayers of the motion, including to urge the Minister of State for Aviation “to immediately direct all relevant agencies in the aviation industry to immediately conduct a maintenance and airworthiness audit on all commercial aircraft operating within the Nigerian airspace as well as the training of personnel operating within the industry.”
Many senators, who spoke on the motion, narrated their bad experiences at the airports and during flights and agreed that Sirika should address the chamber and not appear before a committee.
Moving the motion, Ashafa said, “The Senate observes that on the 20th of February, 2018, the story of a near fatal incident involving Dana Air with number 9J0363 hit the news waves. It was reported that the aircraft overshot the runway upon landing at the Port Harcourt airport on a flight from Abuja. This incident was attributed to the wet surface of the runway.
“The Senate recalls that just a few weeks before the afore stated event, there was also panic on Wednesday, 7th of February, 2018, when the emergency door of an aircraft conveying passengers to Abuja fell off upon landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
“The Senate is concerned that these recent occurrences might be a sign of a sequence of human errors caused by the failure of officials and staff of the agencies saddled with the responsibility of guaranteeing safety to carry out their due diligence before issuing clearance for aircraft to operate within the Nigerian airspace.”
Ashafa recalled that the country had experienced a significant number of air catastrophes that cost the lives of hundreds of Nigerians due to a range of causes, including human and technical errors.
“The Senate states with concern that it is against this backdrop that it has now become imperative to move with speed and alacrity in order to ensure that all relevant agencies in the aviation industry do their work with excellence and minimal human error in order to prevent avoidable loss of human lives,” he added.
Seconding the motion, Senator Chukwuka Utazi recalled that the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, had in 2015 moved a similar motion leading to the constitution of an ad hoc committee headed by Senator Rabi’u Kwankwaso, which visited the airports and conducted a public hearing where stakeholders made presentations.
Utazi said, “Most of us, after listening to these people and visiting all the airports, became very afraid of entering planes. I was afraid after listening to the professionals on our airports. And all the issues raised by the Kwankwaso-led committee as of that time, none of them has been addressed.
“Ordinary landing equipment that should be at the airports, the commonest of all things, so that they can land at any time, whether daytime, night time or in the rain, we don’t have them at the airports here.”
In his contribution, Senator Mohammed Lafiagi, identified poor maintenance culture as a major factor responsible for the near incidents.
He said, “First of all is the maintenance culture. Maintenance of these aircraft, perhaps a lot of us may not know, is done outside this country. We have no maintenance facilities for these aircraft. And for the fact that foreign exchange becomes a problem for this industry, a lot of these maintenances are skipped.
“And that may be a major cause. So, we must work towards establishing maintenance facilities in this country.”
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, decried that despite efforts by the legislature to intervene in the issues affecting the aviation sector, the Federal Government had yet to take productive steps on the recommendations.
He said, “As the sayings go, make hay while the sun shines, and there is no repentance in the grave. I think it is important that this matter is settled as quickly as possible so that we will be able to be sure that those who fly in Nigeria fly safely.
“I had my own personal experience last month where an aircraft I was on board missed the runway twice. It missed the first one and came back to miss the second one. It was just God who saved us. I am sure that most of us have had similar experiences. It is important for us to ensure that this matter is sorted out. Once anything happens, there is nothing we can do to reverse it.”