Associated Airline crash: Senate rejects Oduah’s explanation

Explanations offered by the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, on the ill-fated crash involving a 23-year-old aircraft in the fleet of the Associated Airline on October 3, 2013, has been rejected by the Senate.

Oduah, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Aviation in company of heads of the various agencies under her ministry, had limited her presentation to the information retrieved from the black box of the aircraft, but the committee, through the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Abdul Ningi, ordered the minister to re- submit a detailed presentation on the incident.
The minister, who refused to talk to journalists after the exercise, had explained that the Accident Investigations Bureau (AIB) had begun investigation and diagnosed the black box in the airport’s  laboratory.
She also showed a two-minute video clip of the conversations between the two pilots, adding that both engines of the aircraft were faulty and should have not been relied upon for the flight.

The minister said the plane’s speed was not enough for the engine to take off and that the co-pilot warned that the bird should not take off, but that  his colleague, who was in charge of the flight, ignored the advice.
She said, “As minister of aviation, the fact that we got the preliminary report in our laboratory without waiting for the final report showed that we have put in place preventive measures.”

She then made a power point presentation of the state of the various airports in Nigeria and how her ministry had been able to carry out a comprehensive transformation of the sector.
But after listening to her one-and-half hour presentation, the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi,  who represented Senate President David Mark,  said Oduah’s explanation fell short of addressing the circumstances that surrounded the crash.
Consequently, Ningi said the minister should come up at another date with details about the processes that led to the take off of the aircraft on the fateful day, especially those whose responsibility it was, to have alerted relevant agencies on its condition.

“What we expect you, Honourable Minister to come and tell us here is whether your investigation had revealed those who approved the aircraft for the flight operation,  the manufactured date of the aircraft and the age of the pilot; we learnt it was 64 years old.
“We also expect you to tell us when the aircraft was last serviced and who supervised the maintenance and certified it okay. Your explanation was just limited to the immediate cause of the crash; we want you to come back and give us the critical information,” Ningi said.
Oduah, however, commended the Senate leadership for showing understanding, pledging to return on another date with the information requested.

She had earlier said the aviation sector was in a deep rot when she took office in July 2011, noting that all the nation’s airports were characterised with obsolete, unserviceable and unavailable safety and security.
The minister painted a gory picture of the sector, describing it as “a dilapidated, unmanned and highly unprofessional sector” when she took a facility tour on assumption of office in July, 2011.
She said she met decayed infrastructure at all airport terminals and facilities and services, including air conditioning, toilets, trolleys, elevators, directional signage and power generators.

According to her, what was operating then was an unsafe working condition for airport staff, especially those of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
“There were several abandoned control towers all over the nation. We had 154 abandoned control projects all over. There were also several runways without runway lighting.
“There were massive leakages of agencies’ revenue due to manipulation of manual revenue collection process,” she explained.
Attempts to speak with the minister after the event were futile as she simply walked past newsmen who had waited for her to go out of the hearing room.

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