BY LAWANI MIKAIRU
Hounrable Dayo Bush-Alebiosu is the Chairman, House Committee on Treaties and Agreements, which was inaugurated in the House about a year ago. In this interview with Aviation reporters, he speaks on several issues in the Nigerian aviation industry including the failure of the management of Dana Air to complete payment of compensation to families of crash victims over 16 months after the crash, the recent crash involving Associated Aviation Limited and the imbalances in the Bilateral Air Services Agreements, BASA, Nigeria signed with several countries.
As the Chairman, House Committee on Treaties and Agreements, what are the challenges facing your committee in addressing the several imbalances noticed in the Bilateral Airs Service Agreements, BASA, Nigeria has with some countries?
The reason why the committee was inaugurated was because we saw that there are some lapses in the system and we don’t want it to be business as usual and that is why we’ve taken some necessary steps. For example, we’ve just finished the report on the Business Investment Treaties in consultation with some experts. We will get the BASA, but the House will have to mandate the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, and the Ministry of Aviation to furnish us with the BASA agreements they have. I am not saying I love Nigeria more than the executives and I don’t equally expect the executives to say they love Nigeria more than the legislature, but the most important thing to me is how the citizens will enjoy the benefits of democracy and even these agreements.
They say where there is a will, there is a way. I can guarantee you that we have the will and the way is there. But it is important to exhaust all avenues available. I don’t believe in war because when you go to war, you still eventually come to a round table for discussion. So, why go to war in the first place. This is not a war, but what I’m saying is that what I was elected to do was to protect my constituency and the people of Nigeria and their interest and that is what we are going to do.
From the look of things, your committee has gone cold on its fight on payment of compensation to the victims of Dana Air crash of June 3, 2013 as it started immediately after the crash, why is this so?
On the Dana Air crash and the compensation of victims, the first convention of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, says they were to be paid 100, 00 Special Draw Rights, SDR, which is the International Monetary Fund, IMF, structure and as at the time, it was an equivalent of $100, 000 and there was a protocol to that conventions saying that there were going to be some reviews and that it will be binding on any nation that has been signatory to the convention. Whether it is reviewed upwardly or downwardly, it will be binding on any nation of which Nigeria also appended its signatory to that protocol. This means that Nigeria agreed that if they reviewed upwardly or downwardly, it will be binding on us.
Now, it was reviewed from 100, 000 SRD to 113,000 SRD. The essence of the SDR by the IMF was to ensure that it was not just to the benefit of a country’s currency. But as at the time the crash happened, on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, website, the 113, 000SRD was $170,000 and then, the committee sponsored a first bill, which said they were to be compensated before the due date and said they were to be paid the first 30 per cent within the first 30 days and as at that time, they were meant to have been paid 30 per cent of $170,000.
Later on, we have to wait to see that nature took its course and we realised that some agreed to the settlement of $100, 000 and the committee came back to inform the public that the families of the victims were entitled to $170,000 as full compensation. Personally, I felt it was like robbing the dead.
After this, the management of Dana Air came out to say they didn’t know who to pay the compensation to, but personally, I will say I didn’t agree with the reason because when you purchase a ticket, they will ask you for the information on the next-of-kin in case of the unexpected and I’m aware that after the motion, we went to the media to inform the people the actual amount they were supposed to be paid and quite a number of them went to the law court, but it’s a practice that when a case is in the court, we do not deliberate on it on the floor of the House so as not to jeopradise the outcome of the case. That is why we have been quiet on this, but we did what we were meant to do by bringing it to the attention of the public. We’ve done what we should and the court should be able to take care of that .
.What is your view about the current state of the Nigerian aviation industry ?
What is happening is like a ripple effect. We’ve seen so many of our airlines come and gone. Some last only a year or two. Why is this so? It is because the local business is being taken away and in order to survive, they cut corners. Although, we are yet to have the final report on the Dana Air crash, but at a point, there was a rumour that the airline was sold bad fuel by their oil marketers and before the accident, I remember, we invited the Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke to fish out those who were putting some addictives into the Jet A1.
Now, what the committee intends to do to prevent recurrence especially the issue of contaminated aviation fuel is to establish a test laboratory at all airports in the country to test the quality of fuel sold to airlines before a plane embarks on a flight. With this, after the fuel tank of the plane has been filled, a sample is taken and tasted to make sure that the quality of fuel meets up to international standards. The bill has been approved and gone for gazette.
What is your view about the October 3, 2013 Associated Aviation Limited plane crash?
Yes, I’m aware that the minister said the crash was an act of God. There is no crash that is an act of God as far as I’m concerned. An act of God is a huge storm, flooding, when you see an act of God, you will know what it is, but a plane that takes off and comes down, signifies that something was wrongs somewhere.
You don’t tell the people that it was an act of God. I respectively say this and I do not intend to confront the minister with this, you don’t call that accident an act of God because I’ve gotten so many responses from several Nigerians, but when we are able to identify what the cause is, then, it puts the minds of the people at rest as to the cause of a particular crash.
Having said this, I believe the accident is still under investigation and for me, it is too early to start saying it was an act of God.
What is the progress of National Assembly probe into the BMW cars scandal presently rocking the country’s aviation industry?
I will be honest with you on this, there is a Committee on Aviation in the House whose function is to deal with that and there is another committee, which deals with anti-corruption, and another one on narcotics and financial. Those are the three committees that I think will be saddle with such. Because of the peculiarity of my committee, which is treaties, there is hardly any agency or ministry that is not involved in one treaty or the other. That is why we have a hand on the entire ministry.
But as a member of the House, I am allowed to comment on this, but it will be unfair of me and premature of me to comment when we have not gotten the report of an investigation. I don’t know what are reasons are, but I believe when she’s invited, she would be able to state her reasons. We won’t just put our judgement on whatever we read on the pages of newspapers.
The belief of most stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation industry is that the autonomy of NCAA is being eroded,what is your view about this?
From my perception, NCAA is a high turnover agency, you will see that the position of the Director-General is a high turnover one, but I believe the House Committee on Aviation should be in the best position to throw more lights on this, but if you ask me, if I’ve heard such rumours, I would tell you that I have, but I have not been able to substantiate the rumour.