Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah
Four days after a tragic crash involving an Associated Airline plane killed 14 people in Lagos, Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, on Monday described accidents as God’s will that are inevitable.
She said notwithstanding this reality, the Federal Government would continue to ensure there were no accidents.
Oduah made the submission while fielding questions from State House correspondents on investigations into the Thursday Lagos crash, the safety of the nation’s airspace and the suspension of Dana Air’s operations, among other issues.
While reacting to a comment that the latest crash had made nonsense of government’s much-talked about reforms in the aviation sector, the minister said, “We do not pray for accidents but they are inevitable. But we will continue to do everything to ensure that we do not have accidents. But an accident is an act of God.
“Again, we do not speculate on the cause of accidents. Until they happen, you cannot say this is the cause or that is not the cause. But what is obvious and is 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 has his/her responsibility and all must work in tandem for there to be an optimal, secure and safe aviation sector in the country. And that is what we have been working on.”
Oduah described those saying that she left the issue of safety in the airspace to dwell on money-making ventures as ignorant.
She explained that security and safety could not be achieved without proper funding.
The minister said, “I think it is ignorant to say so because you cannot have security and safety without funding. The aviation sector 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 must be sustained and maintained. And if you do not do that you are not just being sincere.
“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.
“In aviation, it is often said that if you think safety and security are expensive, wait until accident happens and see how expensive it is. And so, everything we have done has been with security and safety as the pivot. You cannot do anything in aviation without this.
“And what saddens me really is that ICAO said just last week that Nigeria was way above the global average. We actually scored 65 per cent. Secondly, ICAO said Nigeria was the 12th most safe aviation globally. And then when you hear bad comments; people making comments that have zero bearing on reality. It is very annoying.
“What I will advise the public really is to recognise the fact that aviation is a very professional area; you cannot listen to bar (beer parlor) comments because they are just unrealistic and totally untrue.”
Oduah disclosed that the preliminary report on the Associated Arline crash would be ready in a couple of weeks.
She said the ministry was waiting for the experts from France before they could open up the engine of the plane and to find out the cause of the accident.
The minister said, “The preliminary report should be out in a couple of weeks. The experts are coming from France and the manufacturer of the aircraft. We must have them regardless of how we want to accelerate the investigation.
“We are waiting for them to come so that we can open the engine and find out exactly from them what went wrong. 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 insisted that notwithstanding the latest crash, Nigerians should not be afraid to fly because the nation’s airspace was safe.
On the suspension of Dana Air operations, Oduah said, “Their licence was not stopped. What we stopped are their operations.They were stopped because the law says that if there is anything noticed not in tandem with the policy, the regulation must stop and re-certify and make sure that there is compliance.”
She however refused to state the operational issues noticed in the case of the airline.
Oduah added that 90 per cent of private jet operators were operating outside the mandate and outside the policy.
She said that was why the government had to review the policy.
The minister also said a situation where they operated in an “unregulated, unmonitored and uncontrolled” environment was no longer acceptable.