Rights group carpets Reps over calls for Demuren’s sack

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By Kenneth Ehigiator

LAGOS—Civil Society Aviation Coalition, CSAC, yesterday carpeted the House of Representatives over its declaration that Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, be sacked due to the role he allegedly played in the processes that led to the crash of Dana Air plane at Iju Ishaga in Lagos.

The crash, which claimed the lives of all 153 persons on board and others on ground, occurred on June 3, 2012.

The House of Representatives had last Wednesday, alluded to the deployment of MD83 aircraft by the airline, which it claimed had been phased out in other parts of the world, as one of the reasons responsible for the crash.

But CSAC, in a statement signed by Emmanuel Onwubiko and Maimuna Al-Hassan, said the lawmakers only played to the gallery, noting that the MD83 aircraft type was still being operated in less than 21 countries of the world, including the U.S., the maker.

It noted that those pushing for the sack and prosecution of the NCAA DG on account of the obvious falsehoods and misrepresentation of facts displayed by the lawmakers had ulterior motives.

The group stated:  “We in the Civil Society Aviation Coalition (CSAC) have read with considerable shock and disappointment, the report of the House of Representatives Committee on Dana Crash with a recommendation to sack the DG of NCAA, Dr Harold Demuren and bring criminal prosecution against him.

“We are not particularly bothered about the call for the sack and the call for criminal prosecution, but the reasons adduced for the call which are based on falsehood, fallacies and misrepresentation of facts.

“These are the fallacies we intend to address here for the interest of the nation’s aviation sector, the flying public and its continued relevance before the international aviation community.

“The House report alleges that the DANA  Air MD 83 aircraft type has been phased out all over the world, including the United States. Nothing can be further from the truth. For the records, these type of aircraft are still very widely in use in most countries around the world, with the largest number found among airlines in the US.

“We make bold to say that the MD 83 aircraft type has not been phased out worldwide, as indicated in the list of countries still using the aircraft type listed below:  Worldwide, 207 of the MD 83’s are still in use in 21 countries.

“They include Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh,, DRC, Croscell, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Romania, South Africa, Spain, taiwan, Ukraine, and the USA.  American Airlines has 86 in its fleet; Allegiant Airline 49; Ryan International Airlines flying the oldest (27 years), indicating that age of aircraft has little correlation with air-worthiness; the youngest is 16 years and the average age of the aircraft type is 21 years

“In fact, US Presidential candidate in the last Presidential election, Governor Mitt Romney uses the MD 83 manufactured in 1990, the same year the aircraft in Dana fleet was manufactured.”

The group also dismissed the House’s claim that the NCAA did not have inspectors type-rated on the MD83 plane, saying the claim was untrue.

It also faulted the lawmakers’ claim that the country lacked aircraft maintenance hangar facilities for repair of aircraft, noting that the NCAA had always been in the forefront of encouraging private investors to invest in such facilities in the country.

“What is important to note is that the NCAA insists on the religious adherence to the stipulated Maintenance Programme for all airlines as contained in the Manufacturer’s Maintenance Manual (MMM) and NCAA Approved Maintenance Programme.

“We want to also emphasise that this mandatory Maintenance Programme is carried out at designated and NCAA Approved Maintenance Organisations (AMO) abroad for the purposes of achieving the highest standards of safety.

“This outside maintenance programme is carried out under the strict supervision of NCAA Safety Inspectors. So the question of the safety of aircraft operating  in the nation’s airspace, in spite of the lack of AMO’s in the country is not in doubt.”

On Dr. Demuren’s alleged incompetence by the lawmakers, the group said Nigeria couldn’t have attained FAA category 1 certification, if the regulator was incompetent.

According to the group, “it is important to note that the current DG came on board at a time the nations safety record was at his lowest ebb, with series of disastrious air crashes.

“The resulted effect was that foreign airlines from America were banned from flying direct into the Nigerian airspace and vice versa for Nigerian Airline Operator’s Aircraft.

“Today, this has become a thing of the past as the nation, under the leadership of the current DG achieved Category Status which has also emboldened ICAO to place the responsibility of helping other African countries like Burundi, Mozambique, and Angola, amongst others on NCAA to meet ICAO safety standards.

“Nigerians must note that to date, the legitimate accident investigation authority, AIB, is yet to finalise its reports that will reveal the cause(s) of the Dana crash.

“It is, therefore, preposterous that the House Committee that lacks professional experts in aircraft accident investigation is reaching unfounded conclusions on what and who may have been responsible for the accident. This is nothing more than with-hunt and unwarranted blackmail.”

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