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Aviation: 2013, Nigeria’s Turbulent Skies



For those who have argued that the Nigerian aviation industry was teetering towards collapse and many Nigerian planes could rightly be described as flying coffins, the year 2013 seemed to have been a final confirmation to that theory.
Even the most optimistic analysts and die-hard commentators now talk openly about the rot, corruption, lawlessness and chaos in the aviation sector.
It was indeed a year to remember with many troubling moments, a major plane crash, many air incidents, a financial scandal, a daring dismissal of an aviation chief and several other flops that left many watchers bewildered.

The scandals and flops and the anger they generated were so potent and consistent that they almost overshadowed the remodelling exercises of some airports in the country.
From the moment Dana Air was back into the Nigerian skies four days into the new year, on 4 January, following their plane crash on 3 June 2012 that killed 163 people, the anger that accompanied the move, especially because families of the victims were yet to be compensated, were similar to signals that the year 2013 was going to be a turbulent one.
Despite protests, loud and pent-up, Dana Air successfully returned into the skies without a major incident and even began to open new routes while promising to replace its old planes that need more money to fix.
Associated Airline plane wreckage carrying the corpse of ex-aviation minister, Segun Agagu: 16 people died in the crash

With frequent disobedience of court orders and lawlessness by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, the first and second quarters of the year were dominated by a cornucopia of crises between FAAN and Maevis Nigeria Limited, FAAN and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited and FAAN and AIC Nigeria Limited.
In all these three cases and several others, FAAN undermined the Public Private Partnership drive that it embarked on almost a decade ago.

The removal of Dr. Harold Demuren, the charismatic Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the man who brought America’s category one safety certification to Nigeria, was a big surprise to many industry watchers.
With the coveted certification, Demuren had made it possible for Nigerian airlines, with high safety standards, to fly directly to the United States of America with Nigerian planes and Nigerian crew.

But for millions of Nigerians who may remember the year 2013, October might be seen as the defining month.
In the early morning of 3 October, an Associated Airlines plane carrying the remains of former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, crashed in Lagos with 20 people on board and killed 15 of them.
The plane flew only for some seconds before it came down not far from fuel depot at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria.
The cockpit voice recorder, CVR, analysed in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja, later revealed that the captain failed to heed warnings by the co-pilot to abort take off because of the faulty condition of the plane.
Just days after that accident, a Kabo Air plane crash-landed in the northern Nigerian airport of Sokoto with 512 souls onboard.

Three days after the crash the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, suspended the operations of Dana Air for precautionary measures after one of its planes had an air return.
But if these were serious incidents, it was a revelation by Sahara Reporters, a New York based online news medium, in October, that Stella Oduah, Aviation Minister, had compelled the NCAA to purchase two BMW cars for her personal use at the hefty sum of N255 million.
The revelations hit the industry like a bomb and for weeks Nigerians called on Oduah to resign following her admission that she approved the purchase of the inflated cars.
She appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation and at the end of the sitting she was indicted.
The House at a plenary adopted the Committee’s recommendation and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack Oduah. But the woman has said she is not quitting yet.
The year 2013 would be remembered as a turbulent year in the Nigerian aviation industry.

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