THE last time that Nigeria suffered a major devastating aviation disaster was on Sunday, June 3, 2012 when a Dana Airlines Flight 992 operating an MD-83 aircraft crashed in Iju, on the outskirts of Lagos, killing all 159 passengers and crew on board. An Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, final report published on March 14, 2019 blamed the tragedy on mechanical failure and pilot error.

Apart from the Associated Airlines crash of October 3, 2013 in Lagos, there have been other minor accidents, mostly involving military aircraft and commercial helicopters. Otherwise, the aviation industry has enjoyed a reasonable accident-free period, with Nigeria only in March 2018 retaining its Category 1 certification by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.

However, a series of fairly minor incidents which have been creeping up here and there should serve as early warning signals for us to do an urgent overview of the entire aviation industry in order to head off possibly impending disasters.

Within a space of two months, three of these incidents have occurred. On June 22, 2019, an Air Peace aircraft overshot its runway in the Port Harcourt International Airport.

On July 19, a strange man was caught on video climbing the wing of an Azman flight waiting in the holding bay for a directive to take-off to Port Harcourt.

READ ALSO: Lagos Airport reopens for flight operations after Air Peace aircraft incident

Barely four days later, another Air Peace flight crash-landed in Lagos in bad weather, losing its nose tyres. All these went without loss of lives or serious injuries to passengers and crew.

Though the aviation authorities, after a cursory check of all airlines operating in the country came out with a clean bill of health across board, we call on the two National Assembly Committees on Aviation to conduct a deeper inquest (involving the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN; the Federal Civil Aviation Authority, FCAA; the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority, NAMA and others, to evaluate the current state of the industry.

There should also be a public hearing where all stakeholders and members of the public can discuss an agenda to clean up the industry.

This is very crucial to restore faith and confidence that the steady reforms that started under the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan and was continued by the President Muhammadu Buhari regime will not be compromised through security laxity and corner-cutting by airline operators.

The industry regulators should also sit up. With the scourge of terrorism and other security threats staring us in the face, we must redouble our efforts to ensure the safety and comfort of air travellers, many of whom are visiting expatriates, tourists and investors.

This way we can retrieve our status of regional aviation hub which we lost to Ghana due to the latter’s uncompromising commitment to best practices.

VANGUARD

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