Senate summons Aviation minister, Sirika over recurring air accidents

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Following recent instances of air mishaps in the country, the Nigerian Senate has summoned the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to appear before it in plenary to explain the reason for the recent air accidents and near fatalities.

This followed a motion sponsored by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (APC, Lagos East) and eight others.

Ashafa stated that one of the accidents involved a plane belonging to Dana airline which overshot the runway upon landing at the Port Harcourt airport from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

But the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Henrietta Yakubu, explained the incident saying, “The incident was suspected to have been caused by a heavy rain, which was accompanied by strong wind and storm in Port Harcourt.

“No casualty was recorded, as all passengers on board were safely evacuated.

But Ashafa expressed concerned that these recent occurrences might be a sign of a sequence of human errors caused by the failure of officials and staff of agencies, to carry out due diligence before issuing clearance for aircraft to operate within the Nigerian airspace.

He further recalled that weeks before the Dana incident, an emergency door of a plane conveying passengers to Abuja  had fallen off, noting that the situations was creating panic among air users.

“Recall that just few weeks before the event, there was also panic on Wednesday, 7th January, 2018, when the emergency door of an aircraft conveying passengers to Abuja fell off upon landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport in Abuja,” the lawmaker said.

In his contribution, the lawmaker representing Enugu North, Senator Chukwuka Utazi said, “It became fearful at a time because all recommendations from the 7th Senate were not implemented.  Last time, we closed all airports because we were working on the runways.”

Senator James Manager representing Delta South senatorial district expressed worries over incessant air mishaps that had in the past led to loss of prominent Nigerians.

According to him, “As a nation, we need to address the aviation issues seriously and frontally too.

“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, some equipment that were supposed to be installed to make air operations easy are being kept,” as he  wondered the kind of country Nigeria is.

“I support the motion that this issue should not be treated at the Committee level, but invited the Minister of Aviation to appear before us,” Manager said.

Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, on his part, called for decisive action, particularly as the issue had been treated in the past without action.

“If necessary, we have to declare state of emergency on aviation sector, because it is incomprehensible seeing a door of a plane falling off.  It is good to declare a state of emergency.”

Senator Abdulfatah Buhari, while contributing to the motion, berated Aviation officials for not doing their job, lamenting that the state of the industry was getting terrible by the day.

Senator Jibrin Barau, on his part, warned that there would be more disasters if nothing was done to salvage the Aviation sector, adding that the state of the industry has assumed a worrisome dimension.

Also contributing to the motion, Senator Sam Anyanwu identified inconsistent government policies as reasons for the anomalies in the Aviation sector, alleging that no airline in Nigeria subjects its aircraft to annual routine checks.

“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, it is not just about aircraft maintenance, but government policies and the only aircraft that goes for annual maintenance is the aero contractors that have been taken over by AMCON now.  Others do not, and government is not doing anything,” he said.

Anyanwu also canvassed government bailout for the Aviation sector, adding that the industry was capable of becoming a huge source of revenue for the country.

In his reaction, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu explained that each person might have had one bad experience or the other with the Aviation industry, hence the need for the matter to be urgently handled.

The Senate consequently resolved that Sirika should be summoned and that all the aircraft in the country be maintained with immediate effect.

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