By Kate Henshaw

When we lose loved ones, the pain is great. When we lose loved ones through the fault of someone else’s incompetence, the pain is deeper. We want payback and retribution. We are inconsolable with words of comfort. We look up to the heavens and wonder why our creator would let this kind of misfortune visit us.

We are at a loss at the next step to take to move on with our lives. We think of dreams unfulfilled, unresolved disagreements, plans that have suddenly hit a brick wall because they are no longer with us. We think about what could have been. Our last moments with them, be it good or bad.

June 3, 2012 would remain indelible in my mind and in the minds of those who lost friends and family. I boarded the Dana Air flight 993 from Lagos to Abuja which was slated to depart 12:06pm. We landed Abuja ok. I even slept on the flight because I had a long day the night before and so was quite tired. It was a quick in and out trip as I was slated to return with flight 992 back to Lagos.

Thankfully I was delayed where I went to and though at the time I was angry at being delayed but it was a great blessing in disguise. Not so for the 163 passengers who boarded the flight. All their loved ones and friends have left the memories. Life has moved on for so many people who were unaffected by the disaster. “The show must go on” as is the parlance on stage.

In numerous discussions about the return of Dana air flight operations, opinions have been divided as to whether they should be allowed to continue their operations or not. Emotions still run high on the matter. I have looked at it from both sides of the coin and I want to use this medium to voice my thoughts on the issue.

I had wanted to title this article “AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF AVIATION” but changed it . My first question is what is the conclusion of investigations carried out to ascertain the root cause of the crash? In Nigeria, things are always open ended, never closed.

No prosecutions, no sanctions, no fines, no closure. Numerous crashes have occurred in our airspace; hardly any reports released to the general public on the cause (except for that of Sosoliso which I hear has just been released). My next question is have all the bodies been released to their families? Have compensations been fully paid?

The Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, had on Wednesday last week announced the lifting of the suspension because of “government’s satisfaction with the airworthiness of the airline after rigorous technical, operational and financial audit of the airline”. The Minister went on to say that the decision taken to lift the ban was with all sense of responsibility.

According to her, none of the reports at their disposal has held the airline culpable for the loss of the many lives on that fateful day and that the actual cause of the loss of the two engines may never be known! That is not a lot of help and succour to the families who are bereaved.

It was not an Act of God so there must be an explanation. The families cannot just accept the word of the Minister, can they? If it is not normal practice to ground operations of an airline whose plane was involved in an accident, then what is the routine?

Why then were their operations suspended? Was it to placate the tensions that were flaring up at the carnage at that point in time and when tempers were doused, return to status quo? What measures have been put in place to make sure that airline operators adhere strictly to best practices?

Too many questions I fear remain unanswered and like everything else in this country; it will be swept under the rug in no time. It is quite disheartening to have a government that is not trusted by its own citizens. It is only when it hits close to home that swift and definite actions are taken.

The families who lost loved ones need to be called together and given access to this supposed report that has surfaced which culminated in the lifting of the ban of operations of Dana air. The general public needs to be kept in the loop. It should not go in the way of other air crashes like those of ADC, BELLVIEW AND SOSOLISO.

The Minister needs to ensure that full compensation is paid out to all families (though you can never put a price on a life lost) and bodies released to the families accordingly so they can be laid to rest. It is not enough to act on impulse and then back track on your decision with a less than weighty explanation.

It is my fervent prayer that all operational checks are put in place and enforced to discourage another occurrence. When these are done, we can at least say we have done all we possibly can to reduce airline crashes in our airspace.

If someone has decided to play Ludo with the lives of those who died on June 3, 2012 then I can only wish that it happens at their doorstep next time so that they feel the pain of  having lost loved ones, and only then will they sit up and take notice.

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