Crashed plane’s victims’ DNA for analysis in UKMinister attacks critics
Why Dana was suspended, by Oduah
Blood samples collected from victims of last Thursday’s plane crash in Lagos and those of their families are due for a British laboratory today for testing.
Sources told The Nation yesterday that forensic experts at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, decided to fast track the process after completing the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) samples collection.
The result is expected in Lagos between three and four weeks, starting from the date the samples arrive at the UK laboratory.
A sister of one of the victims, Mr Chijioke Duru, Mrs Nkechi Nweke, demanded for his body “since it was identifiable”.
Mr Yinka Alabi, a brother-in-law to another victim, Mrs E.O Alabi, urged the government to release identifiable bodies.
The Chief Pathologist and Examiner, Lagos State, Prof John Obafunwa, said some of the identifiable bodies would be released to their families once the identification and documentation have been completed.
He said the DNA examination and delay that may be experienced were to ensure proper identification of bodies and receipt by the right relatives.
Also yesterday, Aviation Minister Stella Oduah defended the sector’s integrity. She said despite the recent plane crashes and the near mishaps, Nigeria’s airspace is one of the safest.
Speaking with State House correspondents, Mrs. Oduah maintained that Nigeria, according to an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) report, is the 12th most safe in global aviation.
According to her, Nigeria scored 65 per cent, which is above the global average.
Describing the critics of the on-going reforms in the aviation sector as ignorant, Mrs. Oduah said that security and safety in the sector could not be achieved without adequate funding.
She claimed that the suspension of Dana Air operations, which followed last week Thursday’s fatal Associated Airline crash in Lagos, was not a fire brigade response – as seen in some circles.
The Minister claimed that the suspension was done in line with the law and policy of certification, which she said is a constant assessment of operators to ensure they are in compliance.
She urged Nigerians to ignore such comments that have no bearing with reality.
Reacting to the allegations that the ministry under her is dwelling more on money making in the sector than safety, she said: “I think it is ignorant – to start with because you cannot have security and safety without funding it; it has to be funded. If you are talking safety, for instance you need to have the infrastructure that addresses that. If you are talking security you need to have the infrastructure that addresses that and all that must be sustained and must be maintained. And if you do not do that, you are not just being sincere.”
“And then when you talk about the issue of renovation, the terminal itself is the first safety and security facility that any passenger comes across. And so in a plan you must start from A to Z. And in aviation, it is often said that if you think safety and security is expensive, wait until accident happens and see how expensive it is.
“And so everything we have done has been with security and safety as a pivotal of it all. You cannot do anything in aviation without these. And what saddens me really is that ICAO says just last week that Nigeria is way above the global average; we actually scored 65 per cent. Secondly, ICAO says Nigeria is the 12th most safe aviation globally. And then when you hear bar comments, drunk and addicts making comments that have zero bearing on reality is very annoying.”
She went on: “What I will advise the public really is to recognise the fact that aviation is a very professional area; you cannot listen to bar comments because they are just unrealistic and totally untrue.
“We do not pray for accidents, but it is inevitable. But all we do is to do everything to ensure that we do not have accidents. But it is an act of God. Again, we do not speculate on the cause of accidents until that happens you can say this is the cause or that is not the cause. But what is obvious and it’s the truth is that in aviation, there are shared responsibilities, starting from the man that carries your luggage to the man that makes sure that your boarding pass is issued to you.”
“And so, the regulatory agency, the operators, the management, everybody have their responsibility and all must work in tandem for there to be an optimal, secured and safe aviation sector. And that is what we have been working on.”
Stressing that Nigeria has been given exemplary roles in international seminars and conferences, Mrs. Oduah said that Nigeria would host a global space conference from today.
“Nigeria is hosting it. We are not hosting it because we can afford it. We are hosting it because we are exemplary. Every nation wants to emulate what we have done within such a short time to be able to have a safe air space,” she said, adding:
“Secondly, we are producing the first ever black president of ICAO. It is unprecedented. Why? Because they have to judge you based on how secure your airports are, how your facilities have improved and we went through all that and every nation steps down and says that it is Nigeria’s time and Nigeria must have the first ever black president.”
On Dana’s suspension, Ms. Oduah said: “Again, those are operational issues. And the law, the policy says that the assessment, the certification is ongoing. In aviation, security and safety measures are work in progress; you don’t stop. You don’t say that I have attained this and so we stop; it never stops. You continuously, constantly assess operators to make sure they are in compliance.”
Denying fire brigade response, Ms. Oduah said: “No! Nothing in aviation is ever fire brigade because there are processes and procedure; nothing at all. And their licence was not stopped. What was stopped is their operations and it was stopped because the law says that if there is anything noticed not in tandem with the policy, the regulator must stop and recertify and make sure that there is compliance”.
Declining to mention the regulations, she said: “I am not at liberty to say so. But that is the reason why their operations were suspended; we cannot joke with safety and security. It is not even optional. It is the way things are done; it is part of the policy.”
On why investigations were not concluded before authorising Dana Air to fly, she said: “It was concluded and, like I said, the process certifying, recertifying, security and safety is continuous. It doesn’t stop. You can get your certification today and in a month’s time or even a week down the line something may happen because constantly the papers, the documents, the log books are constantly being checked”.
On the Associated Airline crash investigations, Ms. Oduah said: “We are still on it. The preliminary report should be out in a couple of weeks. The experts that are coming from France and the manufacturer of the aircraft, we must have them regardless of how we want to accelerate it. We are waiting for them to come so that we can open the engine and find out exactly from them. And you cannot do any of those without their presence. If you do that, then you have contaminated the investigation, so we must wait for them”.
She also denied the allegations that charges in the sector were too high and making operators not to cope.
“You know when you ask me that, that doesn’t sound well. Does it? It is really a very terrible thing. Let’s start with the fact that 90 per cent of private operators are operating outside the mandate and outside the policy. And that was why we had to review the policy in the first place.”
“Two, for the fact that they are operating from what in my view is called “the closet”, unregulated, unmonitored, uncontrolled, it is unacceptable. Because you are carrying Nigerians, and prominent Nigerians for that matter, you must have to be in compliance with the policy. And so the policy was a grey area prior to this time,.”
“We have removed the grey and made it black and white so it becomes a normal GOT operations. And for you to operate GOT you must pay the landing fee, navigational fee, maintenance fee for those apron that you use. Except if you are telling us that because they are big men that we shouldn’t charge them then by all means we will accept.” She added