The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) recognizes that the Aviation Development Company (ADC) plane that crashed on Sunday, October 29, 2006 has further heightened the fears of Nigerians as regards air safety. It has also confirmed the prostrate state of the aviation industry in Nigeria
If the Obasanjo government had properly addressed problem of the ailing aviation industry after the air mishaps involving Bellview and Sosoliso on October 22 and December 10, 2005 respectively and had acted decisively, perhaps the latest crash could have been avoided, or at most, its casualties would have been reduced.
As a face saving measure, in less than 24 hours after the mishap, the former Aviation minister, Babalola Borisade, quickly made a hasty broadcast apportioning blame, saying that the deceased pilot ignored weather advice from the control tower not to take off and he subsequently suspended the operation of the ADC airline. But a clearer picture has shown asked the question why, for up to an hour after the crash, nothing much was done to rescue the passengers if there were no communication problems between the control tower and relevant authorities?
At worst, even if the pilot did not heed the advice of the control tower as stated by Borisade, why is it that the authorities did not stop the aircraft from taking off or do anything meaningful to commence a comprehensive rescue operation immediately? In reality, if ‘state of the art’ communication equipment to read and interpret weather correctly, detect the position or location of aircraft and communicate with them effectively had been in place more lives would possibly have been saved, considering the proximity of this accident to the airport. This is not new technology, this is what obtains in countries that cherish air safety and are complemented with well equipped, motivated, prompt and efficient rescue teams.
The liberalization of the Aviation industry, which has led to the flooding of this sector with private airlines, has worsened the hazards associated with air travel over time. As a result, a few aging planes were bought by these airlines to fly passengers. As if this is not enough, these aging planes are made to fly too many routes so as to maximize profit, thereby overlaboring the pilots and crew. For a pilot to fly an aircraft non-stop from Calabar to Lagos and then to Abuja to Sokoto etc is, to say the least, to create room for worse than has happened. Pilots and their crew need more rest as the art of flying planes is very technical and needs less stress and more concentration. But as a result of selfish greed to maximize profit, these airline operators have few aircrafts and fewer pilots and crew whom they often overwork. The attendant result is: air mishaps too many!
The few eye witness accounts have further shown that there are no prompt and effective search and rescue operations at our airports. Nothing meaningful was done to save passengers immediately after the crash despite the claim that the control tower knew that the plane had crashed. For an air mishap to have happened close to the Abuja Airport without prompt response from relevant agencies further confirms that one, there is no radar to detect the position and movement of aircrafts within the Nigerian air space, or where available, they are not functional or are at best, obsolete! Secondly there are no well equipped search and rescue teams that are prompt and efficient in responding to emergencies. Thirdly workers are ill motivated to work due to lack of necessary equipment, lack of improved welfare, and lack of necessary training and retraining of personnel to maximize efficiency.
With the fabulous wealth that is being generated daily by government, Nigeria is too rich to lack putting in place structures, equipment, expertise etc of international quality and standard. But the reverse is the case, as bureaucracy, corrupt practices etc have totally created bottlenecks and made the realization of everything needed to ensure safety of our air space almost impossible.
Sweeping reforms should be carried out in the aviation industry immediately. The aviation industry should be nationalized and funded with public wealth to ensure efficiency that will guarantee safety for human lives. On the basis of investing public wealth for the good of all in the aviation industry the following could easily be achieved: a new fleet of aircrafts could be bought, as well as all the necessary equipments and facilities, as well as a guaranteed constant training and retraining of personnel for efficiency. It will also ensure that constant checks and maintenance of aircraft and facilities could be carried out even on a daily basis. Enough manpower could be employed and motivated with improved welfare etc as against the mad rush for profit at the expense of safety for human lives which privatization and commercialization represent.