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Another Aviation Probe

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THREE years ago, the country mourned the spates of air disasters in the country. On the night of September 22, 2006, Bellview flight 210 went missing until its strewn parts were found in Lisa, Ogun State the next day.

Its 117 passengers and crew died, among them very prominent Nigerians from business and politics.

A Sosoliso flight crash in Port Harcourt, almost two months after raised the anxieties about air safety. The crashes were disturbing enough that former President Olusegun Obasanjo set up a committee to investigate the state of aviation in Nigeria. Air Marshall Paul Dike, former Chief of Air Staff led the committee that went round the country and its reports unearthed antiquated equipment.

Captain Shehu Iyal, Special Adviser to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is heading a new committee on the challenges of the aviation sector. The report of the Dike Committee has not been used.

The major thing that most people remember about the Dike Committee is the N20 billion intervention fund that the Federal Government instituted. The use of the N20 billion is a subject of litigation, with allegations that the money was misused.

What would the Iyal Committee do that was not in Dike report? Why was the Dike report not implemented? What would the Iyal committee do that Dike report did not cover?

It would have been understandable if the Iyal committee was appraising the implementation of the Dike Committee. The Iyal Committee is of very low status. The name of the President could have been drawn into it, but it is really the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Alhaji Tanimu Yakubu who would attend to this report.

The Iyal and Dike Committees share a commonality of government’s spontaneous response to the issues that it thinks can win it some public affection. When Obasanjo called Dike and his colleagues t0 tour the country’s aviation facilities, planes were dropping off the skies and the government had to be seen as doing something.

In this instance, government is also reacting to the meeting with airline operators, who are complaining about the high costs of running their business.  If government had acted on the Dike report, some of the issues it raised then would have ensured that the aviation sector worked better.

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

Complaints and threats of strikes from the various airlines in the industry moved the authorities to set up another committee whose work would add to the cosmetics that is applied to the issues in lieu of solutions.

Government should revert to the Dike Committee which comprehensively listed these issues and recommended remedies rather than set up another committee to waste public resources and expectations.

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