By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The Senate, yesterday, summoned the Minister of State for Transport (Aviation), Senator Hadi Sirika, and other stakeholders in the aviation industry, to appear before it in plenary, to fully brief it on steps taken by government to minimize human errors and avoid preventable air crashes.
Others required 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 Senate also urged the Minister of State for Transport (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.
These resolutions were taken by the senate following a motion sponsored by Senator Gbenga Ashafa and nine others, entitled, “the need to minimize the possibility of air mishaps and near fatalities in Nigeria”.
Leading the debate on the motion, Ashafa, said that on the 20th of February, 2018, the country woke to be terrified with the news of a near fatal incident involving Dana Airlines with number 9J0363.
He said that it was reported that the aircraft overshot the runway upon landing at the Port Harcourt Airport, on a flight from Abuja, noting that the incident was attributed to the wet surface of the runway.
The lawmaker further pointed out 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.
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 within the Nigerian airspace.
He lamented that Nigeria 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.
“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 had been done to the recommendations of an ad hoc 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 ad hoc committee, he said “ordinary landing equipment are not available at our airports, especially during rainy season”.
In her contribution, Senator Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North) said that 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.
She stressed that Nigeria has no aviation standard of its own but operates global aviation standard like other countries of the world, noting that the major problem in the nation’s aviation sector is poor funding.
“We do not have aviation standard of Nigeria, we have a global aviation standard. The problem that aviation has is that of funding because you need to train the personnel, you need to buy the requisite equipment, the airline operators need to ensure that the aircraft is maintained.
“In aviation, there are a 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”, she said.
Oduah, who was a former Minister of Aviation, called for a review of the aviation industry masterplan which she said was reviewed last in the 1960s.
Also, 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), all frowned that a lot of lives had been lost as a result of air mishaps in the country, urging that the issue must be addressed with utmost priority.
In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, recalled that in 2016, the Chamber had a similar debate and set up a committee that went round and collated information on the state of Nigerian airports.
He pointed out that there was urgent need for the issue of safety in the aviation industry to be taken seriously and addressed promptly, to guarantee safety of air travelers.
“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.