The Dana Air Crash - It Will Happen Again!

A couple of weeks back there was a great tragedy that befell not just the aviation industry but the generality of Nigerians when yet another plane crashed under conspicuously suspicious circumstances leaving over 150 people dead. Approximately one out of every million Nigerian died that day! As usual the sympathetic orchestra rolled out in full force culminating in a visit by the president, shedding of tears and a stern warning that those responsible for the mishap would be severely sanctioned. as at this moment the initial shock and anger appears to have blown over and the new thing now is the Farouk Lawan/Femi Otedola scandal.

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The crashing of planes from the Nigerian airspace is nothing new, in fact, some years back it became so routine that the aviation minister was sacked. And of course, Nigeria being a very 'religious' society began to pray against such occurrence in future. A prominent 'man of God' said inter alia that "...all these are happening despite the fact we have been praying, imagine if we didn't pray". This presupposes that God controls aviation safety and only guides and guards those he listens to! Turning over the control of aviation safety in Nigeria to God is not a bad idea but He must send the planes, pilots and necessary maintenance backup so we can safely scrap the aviation ministry. But because I am less delusional than the average red-eyed fanatic; air safety is a task that must be done by Nigerians. One of the causes of plane crashes at that time was thought to be the lack of weather monitoring equipment and these were subsequently installed at the Lagos Murtala Mohammed airport and the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport in Abuja. But less than a month later the cable connections of the weather equipment in Lagos was stolen! In a desperately poor nation such as ours, desperate men are not afraid to eat themselves!

The cause of the Dana crash has been attributed to the two engines of the plane suffering complete failure. The failure of two engines during flight according to aviation experts is something that is rare and even when the engines suffer bird strikes the engine system is so designed that the ingested bird goes cleanly through the fans and not into the engine! The spokesmen of Dana airlines have been very busy shifting blames. One of the jokers rather cruelly suggested that since one of their engineers was a passenger on the ill-fated plane, it must have been faultless since no staff would want to commit suicide! However, there is no doubt that the cause of the crash lies in how the plane's maintenance was handled and agencies responsible for regulating the airworthiness of passenger airliners in Nigeria were complicit. If despite the Nigerian lives lost in plane crashes in the past, an airplane with obvious issues was still allowed to fly probably with the common refrain "make we manage am" then it is bound to happen again. We love managing things don't we? even in common conversation when we are asked how things are going Nigerians are likely to say 'we dey patch am or we dey manage'. 'Managing' plane safety and maintenance approximates to the most wanton form of destruction of life possible in transportation because it is a very long way down. And while families are grieving and Dana airlines remain grounded it appears as if one of their main concern is that since they really have not done 'anything wrong' [investigations have not proved their fault] it is not economically sound to keep losing about 50 million Naira a day when 'only' 153 people died. And since this is a nation without laws or where laws are simply meant to be documented and not used, Dana airlines would probably get away with murder. It is being suggested in certain circles that the investigation is being influenced to give the airline a soft landing - come on men we're talking big money here, who cares about the lives of 150 miserable Nigerians? What have we done to them that their government has not surpassed?

The plane that flew more than 150 people to their death would probably not get off the ground in most countries where strict aviation rules are enforced without sacred cows. But because this is Nigeria where 'expatriates' [the owners of Dana were Indians] know our weakness for easy and quick money at the expense of obeying or enforcing the law, the Dana tragedy will happen again. When authorities want to engage in "governmentspeak" they talk of investigating the immediate and remote causes of national tragedies. I am yet to see one investigation in the past three decades whose recommendation was made public and duly implemented to the letter. Investigations normally start with appointing 'prominent' men and women and releasing a huge amount of money for accommodation, feeding and meeting materials. When all is said and done the report is presented at a lavish ceremony with a promise by government to look into the matter and implement the recommendations. And that normally spells the end of the investigation because by the time the report is presented, Nigerians, who normally love 'moving on' have already forgotten the tragedy as they slave for the next naira under the Nigerian sun. How can a virtually unitary government honestly investigate itself or any of its arms? In the political clime of Nigeria everyone in authority is linked and are tarred with the same brush - only those who fall out of line are 'dealt with'. I don't expect things to change even after all the so-called black box decoding and other investigations.

To use the language of government; 'the immediate and remote cause' of the Dana airline mishap is the cause of our infrastructural, educational, health and power generation collapse. For example, in a saner country the Lagos-Ibadan expressway should have been modernized decades ago. Because of the decay inherent in the Nigerian system; the nonchalance of people in authority; lack of a responsive and accountable political system; and general ignorance and apathy of the Nigerian people the Dana air crash is just one of the many we are bound to experience as a nation.



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