EXPECTED lamentations have flowed from Thursday’s crashed Associated Airlines flight that was heading to Akure with the remains of former Ondo State governor Dr. Segun Agagu. Our hearts are with the mourning families.
Recriminations over crashes are becoming routinised. You are almost certain, who would say what, those to be blamed and the pointed suggestions that more regulation of the aviation industry would cure it of the shortcomings witnessed in the past eight years often overlook our poor emergency services.
We are still not paying attention to our emergency services. The realisation that accidents can occur, anytime, anywhere imposes a grave responsibility on governments to ensure there are services to ameliorate such situations.
Emergency services are important and major indices of people’s attitude to safety of lives, mirrored through the actions of their governments.
Three major crashes in the precincts of airports preceded the Associated mishap:
*3 June 2012, a Dana plane crash, in Iju-Ishaga, Lagos as the plane approached landing in Lagos, 153 died on board and 10 on ground;
*December 2005, 107 perished in a Sosoliso crash inside Port Harcourt International Airport, some of them were school children from Abuja; and,
*7 November 2005, 96, among them the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, his son and a grand-son, died in an ADC disaster in Abuja.
Sosoliso burnt as relations of passengers watched helplessly. The fire service had no water or retardant, the same scenario was replicated in ADC. Passengers burnt to death in Dana and crowded housing was blamed for late access of emergency services to the plane.
The four cases were in daylight, close or within airports, yet emergency services were as lethargic as when the flights crashed at night and in remote locations that took hours to identify.
The chase-beating by the emergency services is depressing. More lives could have been saved on Thursday if they worked. The Nigerian Air Force hospital is less than three minutes’ drive from the crash site; the Lagos University Teaching Hospital is at most 10 minutes away. The survivors still did not get help on time with the avalanche of emergency services for the international and domestic airports.
We cannot make the point enough that infrastructure is critical to improving Nigeria. It is deceitful to expect emergency services would race to site of air crashes, if they do not function in daily life. Governments have to improve emergency services, including those for rescuing victims of other accidents — road, rail, water, flooding and collapsed buildings.
It is important to establish structures to guarantee security and the right to life. Accidents challenge our infrastructure — emergency services, roads, hospitals, electricity and water supply. Improved emergency services would minimise future losses.