Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah
The Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, Monday attributed both operational issue, as well as the law to what led to the suspension of Dana Air operations.
She said anything noticed that was not in tandem with the policy of the aviation sector, the regulation had the power to stop it, rectify it and ensure that there was compliance.
The minister spoke when she fielded questions from journalists at the State House in Abuja.
“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,” Oduah said.
Asked if the decision to suspend Dana Air was not a fire brigade approach, the minister said: “No! Nothing in aviation is ever fire brigade because there are processes and procedures, nothing at all. And their licence was not stopped. What was stopped was their operations and it was stopped because the law says that, if there is anything noticed not in tandem with the policy, the regulation must stop and recertify and make sure that there are compliance.
“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.
“The process of 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,” the minister averred.
On the investigation in the Associated Airline plane crash, Oduah said the investigation was ongoing, adding that the preliminary report should be out in a couple of weeks.
She disclosed that the experts were going to come from France, as well as 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,” Oduah disclosed.
On the allegations that the charges at the airports were too high for the operators to cope with, Oduah said: “You know when you ask me that, that doesn’t sound well, does 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.”
Meanwhile, passengers yesterday besieged the counter of Dana Air at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) domestic terminal, known as MMA2 and demanded that the fares they paid previously be refunded as the airline had stopped operation.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Sunday suspended the operations of the airline because its Lagos bound flight from Port Harcourt had to make an air return due to engine failure, so the aircraft had to return to airport of departure after it had flown 45 miles to the nation’s commercial city.
Some of the passengers, who were unaware that the airline operations had been suspended arrived the MMA2 to travel to their various destinations only to discover that the airline was not operating.
Disappointed that their flights were cancelled, the passengers demanded a refund of their fares and when Dana Air officials did not respond promptly, the passengers started protesting, requesting that their money must be paid before they would leave the terminal.
Dana Air officials addressed and directed them to queue and be refunded, which they did and all the passengers who had previously bought tickets and who arrived at the terminal were refunded their money.
THISDAY learnt that since after the Dana Air flight crash on June 3, 2012 that killed 153 persons on board in Lagos, the airline had had three engine failures and two of such incidents happened at the interlude of less than one week.
Head of Communications of Dana Air, Tony Usidamen, had earlier explained that the reason why the airline was suspended was because NCAA wished to audit its operations.
“We regret to announce the temporary suspension of our flight operations following a directive from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority on Sunday, October 5, 2013. This, we understand, is to allow for an audit of the airline’s operations as a precautionary measure.
“At Dana Air, the safety and comfort of our guests and crew is a major priority and we would continue to cooperate with the aviation authorities and abide by all local and international safety regulations in the delivery of world-class air transport services to our esteemed guests,” Usidamen said.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that NCAA would carry out audit of the Associated Aviation Limited which flight crashed last Thursday in Lagos and killed 15 persons on board.
The source who confirmed this and said: “It is against the ethics of investigation to rumour about a crash because it will impair investigation and divert investigators’ attention, but NCAA is auditing the documentations of the airline to detect where there are flaws, but it is the Accident Investigation and Prevention Bureau (AIB) that will carry out investigation of the crashed airplane together with aircraft manufacturers.