Senate on Tuesday resolved to summon the Minister of State for Transportation (Aviation), Senator Sirika Hadi to give full briefing on the steps taken to address safety concerns identified to avoid preventable air crashes in the country.
To appear alongside the minister are the heads of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA; Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN; Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB and every other relevant agency in the aviation industry.
The upper legislative chamber urged Hadi to immediately direct all relevant agencies in the industry to conduct a maintenance and airworthiness audit on all commercial aircraft operating with the Nigerian airspace as well as the training of personnel in the industry.
These resolutions followed a motion, “The need to minimize the possibility of air mishaps and near fatalities in Nigeria”, by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East) and cosponsored by eight other lawmakers at the plenary.
Senator Ashafa, while leading debate on the motion, said: “On the 20th of February, 2018 the story of a near fatal incident involving Dana Airlines with number 9J0363 hit the news waves. It was reported that the aircraft overshot the runway upon landing at the Port Harcourt, on a flight from Abuja. This incident was attributed to the wet surface of the runway”.
He added that just a few weeks before the incident, “there was also a 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”.
“While the said aircraft was cleared to return to service on the same day by the relevant authorities, the NCAA, an experienced pilot interviewed by ThisDay newspaper of Thursday, 8th February, 2018 was of the opinion that the aircraft might have experienced a competent failure”, he stressed.
Senator Ashafa noted with concerns that the 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 aircrafts to operate with the Nigerian airspace.
The lawmaker lamented that Nigeria has 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.
“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 said.
Contributing, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP Enugu North) lamented that nothing has been done to the recommendations of an adhoc committee chaired by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso (APC Kano Central) set up by the Senate in 2015 for on the spot assessment of the nation’s airports.
As a member of the adhoc committee, he said “ordinary landing equipment are not available at our airports, especially during rainy season.
Contributing, Senator Stella Oduah (PDP Anambra North) said the first person to ensure that accident and indeed incidents did not occur was the pilot, adding that he/she was guided by aviation policy.
“We do not have aviation standard of Nigeria, we have a global aviation standard. The problem that aviation has is that of funding.
“Funding because you need to train the personnel, you need to buy the requisite equipment, the airline operators need to ensure that the aircraft was maintained.
“In aviation there are number of hours that when you fly you must shut down the aircraft and do maintenance. When an operator has to borrow at 30 per cent, and he is regulated on the pricing he has on his ticketing, it is impossible to maintain his fleets”.
Oduah, who was a former Minister of Aviation called for a review of the aviation industry master plan which according to her was last reviewed in the 1960s.
Similarly, Senators James Manager (PDP Delta South), Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto East), Umar Kurfi (APC Katsina Central), Sam Anyanwu (PDP Imo East) and Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North), lamented that a lot of lives were lost as a result of air mishaps in the country, adding that the issue must be addressed squarely and frontally.
In his remarks, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary recalled that in 2016, the upper legislative chamber had a similar debate and set up a committee that went round and collated information on the state of Nigerian airports.
“We did a resolution which was sent to the Federal Government and today we are back to the same issue debating the aviation sector and security concerns.
“This shows that we must do something quickly. It is important that this matter is settled quickly so that we ensure that those who fly in Nigeria fly safely”, he said.