BY ABDULWAHAB ABDULAH, LAWANI MIKAIRU, MONSURU OLOWOOPEJO & JONAH NWOKPOKU
LAGOS—Exactly two years after 153 passengers and crew of the ill-fated Dana Aircraft perished in Lagos, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe of the Lagos Coroner Court, yesterday held that the court could not arrive at a specific verdict on the cause of the crash owing to inconclusive investigation by the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB.
This came as relatives of the victims thronged the Cenotaph in Iju-Ishaga, Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government to mark the second anniversary of the crash, urging the Federal Government to intervene in the payment of compensation by Dana Airline.
The Dana air flight 992 left the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport, Abuja on Sunday, June 3rd, 2012 for Lagos, with 147 passengers and 10 crew members on-board but crash landed and exploded, killing everyone on-board and 10 on the ground; increasing the total casualties to 167.
However, the presiding coroner only made recommendations on steps to be taken by authorities to avoid future mistakes as well as improving rescue operations whenever such incident occured.
In his one-hour judgment, Coroner Komolafe x-rayed the circumstances leading to the inquest as well as the number of people and government agencies that testified before him and concluded that no verdict could be arrived at due to failure of the AIB, the body responsible for investigating air crash, to present a formal report of its investigations.
Though, according to him the composition of the coroner court by the Chief Coroner, Justice Lateefa Okunnu, was in line with the Coroner Law of Lagos State, however, he only achieved little due to unavailability of the report of the investigation of the AIB.
The chambers of Falana and Falana had filed a petition asking the state Chief Coroner to compose a coroner for an inquest to among others, find out the cause(s) of the air crash.
Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, a principal partner at the law firm, in the request made to the state Chief Coroner, alleged that the aircraft was granted permission to fly, in spite of being defective.
According to Komolafe, 17 witnesses, including security and emergency agencies, state Chief Pathologist, Professor John Obafunwa, representatives of the airline and other governmental agencies gave evidences.
At the end of his findings, Komolafe made a nine-point recommendation to the authorities on respond to such emergency.
These include “establishment of national body for logistics and supply for the body handlers and retrievals and that they should be meeting at intervals”; urgent need for the forensic science laboratory in each geopolitical zones and any state that can have such.”
He also called for an enactment of a national Coroner system; the provision of fire services in each local government of the federation.
Other recommendations by the Coroner include provision of equipment for all emergency agencies; establishment of radio unit service in all emergency units that will be linked to each other.
Apart from these, he suggested the establishment of national and state corps and inter-agency cooperation among all emergency agencies.
On June 18, 2012, an inquest into the cause of the accident began in Lagos, the inquest was however, halted for three months, after a group challenged the jurisdiction of the coroner at the Federal High Court.
LASG officials, victims’ relatives visit crash site, lay wreath
Meanwhile, officials of Lagos Government led by Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed and relatives of victims, thronged the crash site in Iju-Ishaga, to lay wreath in remembrance of their beloved ones, who died in the crash.
The relatives lamented that since the crash, they had not received any compensation from the management of Dana Airline for the loss they suffered, saying “Till date, we are yet to receive fund to cushion the effect of the loss suffered.”
They, however, complained over misrepresentation of some victims of the crash on the tomb constructed by the Lagos State government last year, saying “In spite of our effort to make the required correction, through letters is yet to correct it on the tomb.”
Speaking to Vanguard, Mr. James Okafor, whose younger brother, Mr. Nwabuwa Okafor died in the crash, said the fund is required to cater for the two children left by the deceased, adding “the children were bore to him by his late wife. So, you can see that the children are orphans.”
James lamented that the unpaid compensation had further worsened issues in the family, saying “the father of the deceased, died due to high blood pressure in January, 2013 because he heard that his son was among the victims of the Dana plane crash.”
Mr. Sunday Abuyeri, whose mother, Mrs. Mariam Abuyeri, died in the crash, said the help of the Federal Government was required to address the issues surrounding the crash since June 2012, complained that government had left them to their plight rather than ensure that the compensation was paid quickly.
Pastor Fredrick Akingbe, who spoke on behalf of the ground victims, explained “For instance, the compensation for the ground victims falls into different category- tenants, landlord and others. We are yet to receive any compensation from Dana Airline for the loss we suffered two years ago.”
AIB releases second interim report
Also, Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, yesterday released a second updated interim report on the Dana Airline plane
According to the agency “In accordance with Annex 13 to the convention on International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident Investigation Regulations 2006, this is an updated interim statement being issued for the 2nd anniversary of the accident. The purpose of this investigation is the prevention of aviation Accidents and incidents; it is not to apportion blame or liability.”
In another development, Nigeria Leadership Initiative, NLI, has unveiled a web portal www.saferskyng.org dedicated to the victims and promote air safety in Nigeria.
At a briefing to unveil the website in Lagos, Chief Executive Officer of NLI, Yinka Oyinlola said the main objective of the web portal was to make air travels in Nigeria safer and forestall future occurrence of air disaster through an alert mechanism.