The Safer Skies Nigeria Foundation set up by the families of the 153 persons killed in the June 3, 2012 Dana Air Crash, says Nigeria is still at a high risk of plane crashes due to poor regulation, technical issues, poor funding of airlines and other issues.
The Chairman of the foundation, Mr. Paul Okwulehie, said this during an interview with The PUNCH even as the families mark the seventh anniversary of the tragic incident.
Okwulehie, who lost his wife to the crash of Flight 992 in Lagos, said the near mishap which occurred last week which almost claimed the life of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and 393 others last week, was evidence that a lot still needs to be done.
He said, “The whole Nigerian airspace is still very vulnerable. Many of the problems are economic, regulatory and technical. For example, when aviation prices keep fluctuating and even the airlines have complained that they are not making money. This kind of pressure undermines safety and encourages them to cut corners which are already happening.
“All the parameters are there for another mishap. The risks are very high. Aeroplanes are not being maintained as they ought to be. Many pilots are not being sent for continuous training in a profession which needs constant re-training.
“Also, is the issue of sharp practices. A Boeing 737 will require aviation fuel worth N500,000 for a flight from Lagos to Abuja and back and this is besides other expenses. If there are not enough passengers, the airlines will not break even and then begin to reduce costs that should be meant for safety in order to cover their losses.”
Okwulehie said a large number of families of victims have not been paid the mandatory $100,000 compensation.
He said while some were being paid in tranches, he could not say if there were some that had not been paid at all, adding that many of the relatives had either sued the airline, the insurance firms or both.
Okwulehie added, “Different families within and outside the country have been pursuing legal action. Some are in the United States because it is not only Nigerians that were affected by the crash.
“Mostly, people have been in court with Dana but any remedies will be settled between Dana and the insurance firms. Many people have been paid but not everyone was paid at the same time. It is being done in tranches. Some were paid as recently as two weeks ago but it has been staggered in such a haphazard manner.
“Some were paid only two weeks ago, some three years ago all because of the pressure we have been putting on them.”