News: Senate summons Oduah, others over plane crash • No fact yet on crashed plane’s insurance status – Minister • Kabo Air pilot suspended • National carrier to begin operation soon - iReporterNG.Com | No #1 News Media in Nigeria

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News: Senate summons Oduah, others over plane crash • No fact yet on crashed plane’s insurance status – Minister • Kabo Air pilot suspended • National carrier to begin operation soon

News: Senate summons Oduah, others over plane crash • No fact yet on crashed plane’s insurance status – Minister • Kabo Air pilot suspended • National carrier to begin operation soon

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Stella Oduah
The Senate on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Aviation,  Ms. Stella Oduah, and heads of agencies under her  ministry, to  explain the real state of the nation’s  aviation industry.

The invitation followed Thursday’s Associated Airlines plane crash in which  about 15 out of the 20 passengers and crew on board, had been confirmed dead.

The 23-year-old aircraft  was conveying the body of a former Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, to Akure, when it crashed  barely a minute  after take-off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport in  Ikeja, Lagos.

Hours  after the accident, a Saudi Arabia-bound  Kabo Air plane with 400 passengers on board made an  emergency landing in Sokoto on Friday  when it lost its two main body tyres.

The decision to summon Oduah was taken after the Senators exhaustively discussed a motion moved by Senator Hope Uzodima. In the motion, the lawmaker drew the attention of his colleagues to the   Associated Airlines plane crash and  expressed serious concern that the incident  had underscored the need for the country to re-examine its aviation sector.

He also  noted that the incident, the seventh between June 2, 2012 and October 3, 2013, was “suggestive of a deep-seated systemic problem that must be unravelled and resolved to avert futher occurrences.”

Other senators, in their contributions, also  lamented  that reports on past crashes had offered recommendations on what should be done by the relevant agencies in the aviation sector to avoid future occurences.

For instance,  Senator Abiye Sekibo, challenged the Senate Committee on Aviation to, as part of its oversight functions, find out the airworthiness of all the aircraft on the fleet of the  airlines  in the country.

Senator Barnabas Gemade,who  noted that the aviation ministry had   improved facilities at the nation’s airports, said  there was an urgent need for  professionals to be fully in charge of the sector to enhance its efficiency.

Senator Oluremi Tinubu   noted that Nigeria had the worst airport runway in the world, a situation  she argued,  posed a great risk to   air travellers.

She also described as frightening and disheartening,  statements credited to the aviation minister that accidents were “an act of God and therefore inevitable.”

Senator Smart Adeyemi  said his  findings showed that the plane was supposed to be on a test flight to Akure and therefore should not have  carried  passengers.

Adeyemi added that the   plane was being repaired and had not been flown for sometime hence there were engineers on board to ascertain its performance.

Other senators submitted that the current situation  demanded an holistic approach because the sector  was already in a state of emergency.

The session,  presided over by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, observed a one-minute silence for the victims and condemned the  inability of relevant agencies to unearth the causes of air crashes in the country.

The senators therefore unanimously agreed to summon Oduah  and the chief executive officers of all the agencies under her supervison to explain the true state of the aviation sector.

Ekweremadu, while ruling on the submission of the Senate, however,  clarified that the invitation of Oduah  and others was not an indictment of their competence.

Rather,  he said it  would afford the aviation chiefs, an opportunity to state their efforts at implementating past reports and recommendations of the Senate aimed at ensuring safety and sanity in the industry.

He said, “The observation of lapses in the aviation industry expressed by   senators is not also an indictment of the Senate Committee on Aviation.  The senators expreseed frustration on the issue and not that they passed a vote of no confidence in the committee.”

The  Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, while briefing journalists after the plenary,  said the minister  and    the aviation chiefs  would appear before the Senators   after their resumption on October 22.

He noted that the Senate suspended plenary till after the Sallah celebration so that all the reports pending before it would be submitted.

Shortly after the Senate resolved  to summon her, Oduah said the Federal Government  had   no fact yet on the insurance status of the  crashed aircraft.

The minister, who also explained again that Dana Air’s operations were suspended due to operational lapses, said additional financial assistance would be given by the government to domestic airlines to enable them to keep afloat.

She told journalists in Abuja that it would not be right for the government to speculate on the insurance status of the ill-fated aircraft since  the report on a probe by the Accident Investigation Bureau had  yet to be released.

 She said, “For now, if I answer you, it would amount to  speculation  because AIB, whose responsibility it is to know, has not finished with the investigation. We don’t have enough facts for me to tell you what it is that you want me to tell you. So, I don’t know what you are talking about.

 “I really want to beg every one of you (journalists) to stop speculating. We do not speculate on accidents and this is because we are going to have a preliminary report. The report  will tell you the exact state of the insurance, and whether it is there or not and you will have it as facts.”

 Media reports had it that the aircraft might not have been insured as it claimed. The airline’s alleged insurer, Nigeria Reinsurance Plc, denied having any insurance contract with the carrier.

 The second insurance firm named by the carrier, Sema Insurance, is neither registered with the National Insurance Commission nor an insurance broking firm known by NAICOM.

On the suspension of Dana Air  operations, Oduah said it was not a witch-hunt   but was based on investigation  which was  carried out on the carrier.

 She said, “Certification of airlines is a routine and regular exercise and in the course of certification, there may be operational lapses and when they are  noticed, we have to look at them  again and take the necessary steps that would  ensure safety and security.

“If somebody has high BP (blood pressure) and takes medications and the sickness calms down, if he stops his medication wrongly, what do you think would happen? If an airline has a clean bill and fails to maintain it, it will be suspended.”

 The minister also  said the government would  by the end of this month announce when a  national carrier would commence operations.

 “I guarantee you that before the end of this month we will announce it, ”she told the journalists.

On the  financial assistance to airlines, Oduah  explained  that  it would be   a  single digit interest facility.

  “This will be for a period of 20 years and it will help boost their operations. We are currently waiting for approval by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” she added.

Also,  the Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Mr. Nnamdi Udoh, stated that the pilot of the Kabo air plane that had a burst tyre while landing in Sokoto had been suspended.

He said, “The airline had investigated and found out that it was an operator fault and as I speak to you, Kabo Air has suspended the pilot that was involved.”

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