Indications emerged on Friday that the search and rescue team, comprising aviation and other government agencies, could not save any of the 163 victims of the Dana crash in Lagos because it lacked the required equipment, which was recommended six years ago by the Paul Dike panel.
The government had in 2006 constituted a presidential task force to look at the problems affecting the aviation industry after three air crashes, which claimed over 400 lives.
The task force made far reaching recommendations on how aeronautical search and rescue should be carried out to save lives of victims in the event of air disaster such as the one that involved Boeing McDonnel Douglass-83 plane at Iju-Ishaga on Sunday.
But six years after, experts have said, there was lack of urgency and co-ordination in the response from the search and rescue team.
They also noted that none of the recommended equipment was available for use.
For instance, a former Director of Operation of the liquidated national carrier, Nigeria Airways, Captain Dele Ore, said nothing had been implemented of the recommendations made by the Paul Dike report.
Ore said in line with the report, government needed to have made NAMA the coordinating agency for aeronautical SAR, because efforts to rescue victims of emergency could not go far without such move.
He said, “Why didn’t we save any one alive from the Dana crash? Why is it that nothing was achieved? It was the same thing in 2006 during the Sosoliso plane crash. Those children were crying ‘help! help!’ But no one could help. Six years after, we are still in the same spot. We don’t have a formidable aeronautical SAR. It is a shame and disgrace that we are losing our quality lives.”
Ore also said, “Why is that we don’t have a fire-fighting helicopter that can go to the Dana crash site and rescue people? It is unfortunate for us as a nation.”
Another expert and President, National Association of Nigerian Cabin Crew, Mr. Olumide Olumayo, said even though the crash came as a surprise, more may occur if the government failed to learn from the reports on previous crashes.
He said, “The NCAA is liable, I will not exonerate it until the preliminary investigations are concluded. The agency is not eligible to be part of those to investigate the crash because it is part of those to be probed.
He argued that an existing policy gave 22 years as the maximum age of any aircraft allowed to fly in Nigeria and scoffed at the excuse the authorities gave that hindered them from barring the MD83 aircraft from flying.
He added, “Where are reports on the previous crashes? They would have helped the government and other stakeholders to know which policies to make and which to amend. They keep on piling up the reports and nobody is indicted.”
Also, an aeronautic engineer and consultant, Sheri Kyari, said the history of the aircraft involved did not make the crash a surprise. He added that there were older aircraft in the smaller charter planes category than in the big passenger ones.
He said, “There is a need for more vigilance in the sector. Nigeria may lose its aviation glory due to the incident but it will bounce back, if the government restructures the sector.
“We have told the government repeatedly to repair the refineries to produce adequate aviation fuel. There is a need for maintenance workshops, training and retraining of experts. There must be strict enforcement of regulations in the sector.”
He however, said the country might retain its ‘Category A’ status only if it did not record more crashes.
Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health Association, Nigeria chapter on Saturday charged the FG to overhaul the various regulatory agencies in the nation’s aviation sector in order to check the recurrent air mishaps.
President of the chapter, Dr. Olugbenga Bejide, also advised the government to empower the aviation agencies to enable them to enforce safety standards in line with global best practices.
Investigations by our correspondent also showed that many of the recommendations of the 90-page paper had yet to be implemented.
The report also made recommendations on how to improve safety and security in the sector, among other things.
The report stated on pages 63 and 64 that “recent events in Nigeria (Sosoliso crash in Port Harcourt) have clearly shown that the search and rescue system is inefficient, poorly co-ordinated, and antiquated in its modalities, by current global standards.”
The task force recommended that “government should streamline all existing legislations and Acts on Aeronautical SAR such that the NAMA will serve as a coordinating agency for alert purposes, while the Nigerian Air Force serves as the operating lead agency.”