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Senate Aviation Probe – Illusion of embarrassment

THE Senate Committee on Aviation wants to  probe last May’s black-out at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos. It lasted over four hours. The Senate considers the situation an embarrassment.

It is embarrassing that Senators from their comfort zone do not know that black-outs are a way of life in Nigeria. Is it possible that their concern centres on the fact that the airport is one of the few public facilities they use in Nigeria?

Senators have not heard of hospitals, schools, businesses that run for years without stable power supply? What is a four-hour black-out compared to these? So if there was power supply at the airports the country’s aviation problems, or every problem, would have been solved?

The Senators are the embarrassment. They should not waste any resources on any probe of the aviation industry. Tomes of reports on the sector have not been touched. Power supply is only a tiny manifestation of the problems that were ignored after the noise that attended series of crashes in 2005 and 2006.

Among them were the 2005 September 22, Bellview flight 210 that killed 117 in Lisa, Ogun State. In Port Harcourt, in December 2005, 107 perished  in a Sosoliso crash, many of them school children. Ninety-six lives, including the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, his son and a grand son, were lost in an ADC air disaster.

On 17 September 2006 an Air Force Dornier 228 aircraft (with 18 people on board) crashed in Mbakunu in Sangev-Ya, Benue State; 13 people (including 10 army generals) died.
Air Marshall Paul Dike, former Chief of Air Staff led the government committee that went round the country and produced a report that covered all critical issues on aviation. The most remembered thing about the Dike Committee is the N20 billion intervention fund that the Federal Government instituted. The use of the money is a subject of litigation, with allegations that it was misused.

The emptiness of words uttered four years ago resounds louder because none of the promises made about safer air travels have been fulfiled. The runways are not at their best, operational equipment and facilities remain ancient and costs like parking and aviation fuel, make our airports among the costliest in the world.

Why would a nation that did not make serious changes about its aviation after loss of hundreds of lives be concerned about black-out of only four hours at its airport?

If the Senate Committee on Aviation is serious, it should revisit the Dike Committee Report, it covers more areas than black-outs and would give the committee more insight into the poor airport facilities which pose more risks to aviation than black-outs.

Such approach would provide a more comprehensive cure than the piecemeal system of tackling power failure today, water supply tomorrow only to discover that the radars at the airports fail.

It is the same cosmetic attitude that has stymied solving Nigeria’s problems.


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