The umbrella Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) has slammed the federal government for suspending the operations of one of its members, DANA Air, following Sunday's crash of its MD-83 plane that killed all 153 on board and six others on the ground.
AON Secretary General Mohammed Joji told the local Punch newspaper, in an interview published Thursday, it was necessary to wait for investigations into the crash before deciding whether or not to suspend the airline's operations.
“It is wrong to close down an airline after an accident before investigation has been done. It is necessary to give time for investigation,'' Capt. Joji said. “Dana has three aircraft. One was involved in an accident. They fly 27 sorties (return trips) a day. Everything went well from 2007 when they started operations. It is not enough to suspend their operation after this incident.''
He also disagreed with the Senate for calling for the suspension of the Director-General of the regulatory Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Harold Demuren, especially since investigations into the crash are still being conducted.
The Senate had, while considering a motion brought by the Chairman of its Committee on Aviation, Senator Hope Uzodinma, recommended that Demuren and other top management officials of NCAA be suspended until the investigations were concluded.
Meanwhile, the autopsy being carried out on the 52 identified bodies of the victims is expected to be concluded Thursday, according to the Chief Medical Examiner of Lagos State, Prof. Oladapo Obafunwa.
Only 52 of the 149 corpses deposited at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital morgue have been identified.
“We are discussing with Dana Airline and its insurer to make sure that the bodies are properly identified and matched with relatives that claim the bodies,'' Lagos State Attorney-General Ade Ipaye told journalists in Lagos Wednesday.
“But that is not enough; we must conduct autopsies for each one of the recovered bodies. Fifty-two identifiable bodies were recovered, 97 were charred remains (to be taken) for further scientific probe. The total number with us is 149,'' he said.
The autopsies will delay the burial of the victims for at least two weeks ''to enable the government to work out victims’ compensation with the Dana Airline’s insurer, Lloyds Underwriters of London, United Kingdom,'' the Attorney-General said.
A representative of the insurance company, Chief Yomi Oshikoya, said the firm would pay US$30,000 compensation for each of the victims within the next 30 days, and a ''substantive payment'' of not more than US$100,000 later.
Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah has said the black boxes retrieved from the accident scene would be sent to the US for analysis Thursday (7June).
A three-day national mourning period for the victims ended Wednesday with a special solemn session of the federal cabinet, presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan who vowed to act decisively to ensure the safety of air travel in the country.
“I assure all Nigerians and the international community that the investigations which I have ordered will be very thorough. Let me warn that where clear dereliction of duty is established, firm action will be taken.
“This administration stands ready to take whatever action may become necessary after the investigation to prevent the recurrence of air mishaps,” he said