A CENATOPH – the second in eight years – was erected for victims of the Dana crash of 3 June 2012 at the crash site in Iju-Ishaga, a crowded Lagos neighbourhood. The plane’s 153 passengers and crew, and another 10 people on ground perished.
The other cenotaph is in Lisa, Ogun State, where on 22 September 2005, Bellview flight 210 killed 117. Before Lisa there was a 1996 cenotaph in Ejinrin, Ikorodu, site of an ADC crash that claimed 151 lives.
None of these cenotaphs has changed our attitude to life. Weeds have grown over the one in Ikorodu. Lisa’s has not been mentioned after the first anniversary when the dead were mourned, as if they mattered.
Other major crashes in the past eight years:
•December 2005, 107 perished in a Sosoliso crash, in Port Harcourt, some of them school children heading home from Abuja.
•7 November 2005, 96 lives, among them the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, his son and a grandson, died in an ADC disaster in Abuja.
•17 September 2006 an Air Force Dornier 228 (with 18 people on board) crashed in Mbakunu in Sangev-Ya, Benue State; 13 people (including 10 army generals) died.
We mourned each of these crashes as if they would change anything. Eloquent speeches and the setting up of the Air Marshall Paul Dike’s committee that toured aviation facilities nationwide and recommended changes, was the closest we can to acting.
Dike’s committee resulted in the N20 billion aviation intervention fund, its pillage is the subject of a five-year-old ricocheting litigation.
In all these crashes, poor emergency services were cited for the huge loss of lives.
The 2005 accident that killed the Sultan of Sokoto was just outside the Abuja airport, like the Dana flight that was approaching landing in Lagos. Both cases were in daylight yet the emergency services were as chaotic as when the flights crashed at night and in locations that took hours to identify.
We cannot make the point enough that infrastructure is critical to improving Nigeria. It is deceitful for anyone to expect emergency services that would race to site of air crashes, without services that function in daily life. Governments are hypocritical by assembling at these crash sites with assuring words whose emptiness show in the fact that after a year of the Dana crash, and years of earlier crash, nothing has been done to improve emergency services.
It is important that we establish structures to guarantee not only security, but the right to life. Crashes demand better regulation of aviation. They also challenge our infrastructure – emergency services, roads, hospitals, electricity and water supply. We need these measures to minimise future losses. Our hearts remaining with the mourning families.