By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Lawani Mikairu & Daniel Eteghe
More than one month after a Dana aircraft crashed at Iju-Ishaga in Ifako-Ijaye Local Government Area of Lagos State, the airline’s management confirmed, yesterday, that nine people, who are next of kin to some of the crash victims, have received their interim benefits.
The airline is mandated to pay 30 percent benefits of the $100,000 insurance cover to victims’ next of kin within 30 days of crash.
Head of Corporate Communication for Dana, Mr. Tony Usidamen, yesterday, told Vanguard on phone: “As of July 2, the airline had received completed insurance forms for 64 of the victims, four of which are our staff members.
“We are aware that most of the next of kin or legal representatives, who submitted documents, are yet to visit the Crisis Management Centre, CMC, and submit documentations to us. Nine claimants have received interim benefits.”
The airline is, however, not blaming the victims’ families as “we believe the families are still observing the customary mourning period. Insurance funds are already in place.”
The airline further said that members of the families who have submitted relevant documents to the CMC in Lagos and Abuja have been contacted. It advised the families of victims to visit the Chambers of Dana Air’s Solicitors in Nigeria for legal verification of documentation and next of kin status to conclude advance payment formalities.
The House of Representatives, had last Thursday, directed the management of Dana Airline to pay compensation on or before July 3, to families of the passengers of its ill-fated aircraft.
IDPs reject cheques
Usidamen said: “Dana Air appreciates that the statutory payments cannot compensate for any of the precious lives lost in the accident, but we hope that it will lessen the pains of the families.”
He reiterated the company’s readiness to make interim payment of benefits to families of those who lost their lives in the crash, in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation and Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority regulations.
However, attempt by management of Dana to distribute cheques as interim compensation to the affected Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, was frustrated yesterday, following rejection of the cheques by the victims over what they called “procedural matter”.
It was learnt that Dana management had prepared N500,000 for Mr. Daniel Omowunmi, N100,000 each to two occupants of the boys’ quarters and N200,000 each to six families in the block of flats.
38 IDPs, whose property were destroyed in the incident, were identified and listed for rehabilitation and compensation by Lagos State Emergency Management Authority, LASEMA, in conjunction with the members of Community Development Association, CDA, of the area.
At the Ipaja relief camp, venue of the event, confusion, however, set in after LASEMA General Manager, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, delivered a brief address on the essence of the meeting, which also had in attendance Director of Flight Operations, Dana Air, Captain Oscar Watson.
What was supposed to be a peaceful meeting turned out otherwise as some victims, through their lawyer, bluntly rejected the interim compensation offered by the management.
The management had, at a day-long meeting, offered what it termed ‘interim’ compensation to take care of their temporary abode pending the full payment of the compensation by their insurance company, saying the company was already working out comprehensive packages to adequately take care of them.
Four out of the nine victims, including Mr. Daniel Omowunmi, a pastor and owner of the destroyed warehouse, rejected the cheques through their lawyers, while two other persons later rescinded their decision and collected cheques of N100,000 each. They are Mr. Sapaye Ezekiah, student of Osun State Polytechnic and Miss Bidemi Adebayo, who claimed she had relocated to Cross River State.
A lawyer’s argument
The lawyer, Mr. Gbenga Oguntade, an aviation consultant and solicitor to four of the victims classified as severely affected, rejected the cheques on behalf of his clients, faulting the procedure employed. He argued that the enumeration did not capture some of the victims and property destroyed by the air mishap.
He said one of the victims, who went to the house at 7 Olaniyi Street to watch a football match on television on that Sunday, was not included in the list of the dead victims.
Oguntade said: “As I’m speaking with you, I have about 10 clients that have no roofs over their heads. If they decamp them now, where will they go? Are they sending them to go and be sleeping under the bridges?
“So, insurance package covers all that. We are not saying that they are responsible to the whole world. In the immediate vicinity where the incident happened, so many roofs were destroyed; the roofs caved in and their property were vandalised or stolen by hoodlums who invaded the area.
“As the rain is falling, it damages the remaining property. So Dana cannot deny the responsibility of these inconveniences and consequential liabilities. This is nothing but a jamboree.”
Oguntade expressed fear that going by experience, his clients may be denied their full compensation should they take the cheques, adding that he expected Dana management to respond to the demands of his over 21 clients, who are suffering from the trauma, agony and psychological effect caused by the air disaster.
He argued that the relief compensation should be done without prejudice to the main claim by his clients, which had not been replied to by Dana management after the initial letter written to them on the matter.
Also, some of the affected persons, who were excluded in the compensation list, had a hot argument with representatives of the Iju-Ishaga CDA, led by its Chairman, Mr. Adewale Oriowo. They demanded for immediate inclusion.
Usidemen told newsmen: “We are here at the Lagos relief camp on an exercise as part of effort to rehabilitate the displaced Iju-Ishaga residents.
“Since the incident, Dana has been in touch with the affected families. We had earlier given them relief materials. We have also been on the lookout for proper accommodation for the severely affected people who lost their houses.
“Last week, we held a meeting with affected families and briefed them on the accommodation arrangement. All of them decided that instead of giving them accommodation, they would rather accept payment. So we are here in honour of that decision taken and we have just presented cheques for accommodation to them.
“This is by no means the compensation in a situation like this. Our insurance firms are working out the extent of damage and adequate insurance would be paid. This is just an effort to give interim relief before the actual comprehensive compensation. A temporary relief effort we have been working on in conjunction with LASEMA and the families. We will continue to be with them and assist them.
“On the rejection, some of them raised concern over the way and manner in which the cheques have been prepared. They would rather have a formal letter to them on what the payment would be like. We appreciate their concern and we are going to do that.
“I wish to stress that this is by no means compensation. We are aware that many people were affected in various manners, but surely they would be compensated adequately.”
Osanyintolu said LASEMA based its enumeration on its finding at the crash site.
He added that the classification of the victims was on severely affected, moderately affected and mildly affected that involved the local government representatives, Community Development Association, representatives of Dana Airline and all other stakeholders.
On June 3, a Boeing McDonnell Douglas (MD-83) with registration number 5N-RAM, operated by Dana Airlines Limited, crashed into five houses on Akande, Poopola streets, Iju-Ishaga in Ifako-Ijaye Local Government Area of the state, leaving three houses severely damaged and over 153 people killed in the process.
The aircraft was en route Lagos from Abuja.