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Sosoliso Plane Crash – An Air disaster too many

CDWR Demands Overhaul of Aviation Industry

15 December 2005

The issue of plane crashes in recent times in Nigeria is a case of one incident too many. Reports being circulated shows that the Sosoliso 1145 DC-9 plane mishap on Saturday December 10, 2005 at the Port Harcourt Airport either caught fire in mid-air or landed, shattered and caught fire, leading to the death of 108 passengers and crew with a critically burnt survivor being attended to at the hospital. It is heart rendering for a plane being watched by relatives and friends of passengers to catch fire and roast almost everybody on board to death while they watch helplessly. It is more saddening to note that the victims were roasted to death because the fire fighters and their fire fighting equipments were not in a ready state to do justice to the inferno, and the few passengers that could have survived were not promptly attended to, as there were no ambulances available for 40 minutes after the crash. Although there are different eyewitness reports about the gory incident, the fact remains that the air mishap could have been avoided if the Obasanjo led Government had had a listening ear.

Three air crashes within a space of 49 days leading to the death of 228 people due to negligence, unprepared ness of safety and emergency experts, inaction of government and aviation minister, and the reckless profit drive of airline operators etc are indeed a sad but avoidable loss to Nigeria. It is rather disheartening to bring to light the Federal Government’s insensitivity and disregard to the advice and recommendations reeled out by various pro people human rights organisations during the weeks that trailed the ill fated Bellview crash disaster at Lisa Village in Ogun State on Saturday, October 22, 2005. The Minister of Aviation was absolved of any blame by the government. The various government agencies are still not committed, motivated and retrained to discharge their duties with zeal and vigor. The various airlines and their operators have not been made to undergo all necessary checks to ensure airworthiness and general compliance to safety. Almost all the airports are in bad shapes due to lack of maintenance and commitment of resources towards upgrading them to meet international standard and requirement.

Since the collapse of Nigeria Airways, the aviation industry has degenerated into a senseless ‘mad rush’ of money making venture of all shapes and sizes, with Government and its agencies having little or no say in the day to day running and control of the industry. Civil servants at various agencies responsible for the check of aircraft, air worthiness and enforcement of various safety rules and procedures are underpaid and generally ill motivated, thus, there is bound to be negligence of duty. As such, anything and everything goes, from negligence to all shades of corrupt practices, as bribes are freely given and received at the expense of the safety, comfort and life of passengers and members of the public. Obsolete aircraft, some as old as 37 years {as in the case of the Sosoliso aircraft that crashed at Port Harcourt} or more, are freely used to fly passengers in Nigeria without undergoing all proper routine checks as at when due. The same plane was said to have developed a fault during its trip to Abuja. For reasons of corruption both airline operators and politicians compromise standard and safety.

There is virtually no safe means of transportation in Nigeria as an alternative to air transport. We ply roads on a daily basis that are in total disrepair and have kept claiming lives by the minute. The railways have been totally grounded and utterly neglected without a single functional train in its fleet capable of moving from one state to the other, all this is due to lack of commitment of public resources to construct and maintain roads and railways by the various governments and their agents.

Although, the defunct Nigeria Airways recorded a number of air accidents, it was not as frequent as what obtains at present. After the crippling of Nigeria Airways and its fleet of aircraft, the fastest and hitherto safest means of transportation {air transport} is now left in the hands of vampires to run. The series of air mishaps are pointers to the fact that privatisation and commercialisation are instruments fashioned to continually enrich a few individuals that have converted public corporations to private properties at the expense of human lives, comfort and safety of all in society.

For a lasting solution to the total decay and collapse in the Aviation Sector, the Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) demand as follows:

{1}. Complete restructuring of the Aviation sector and its agencies.
{2}. Sack or resignation of the Aviation Minister
{3}. Nationalisation of the Aviation Industry to be democratically managed and run by workers in the Aviation sector without undue political interference in its structure and management.
{4}. Commitment of special funds for purchasing brand new planes and the maintenance of all such planes.
{5}. Training and retraining of staff in the aviation industry and the various agencies operational at airports in general.
{6}. Strict enforcement of air safety rules by the various agencies responsible.
{7}. Unconditional improvement of staff welfare, salary and condition of service as a step towards ensuring their efficiency and total commitment to duty.
{8}. Provision, manning and assured efficiency of ambulances, firefighting vehicles, gadgets etc for prompt and effective response to emergencies round the clock.
{9}. Maintenance and upgrading of the various airports, runways and the procurement, installation and maintenance of all meteorological, navigational equipments and facilities to meet international standard.
{10} An end to IMF and World Bank neo liberal anti people policies of privatisation and commercialisation of public parastatals, corporations and services, and the nationalisation of all those so far privatised and commercialised by the Obasanjo led Government.

Rufus Olusesan

Victor Osakwe