• Expert cautions ministry against regulatory interference

By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, has directed the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt Chris Najomo, to initiate the suspension of Dana Air over the runway excursion it suffered on Tuesday, April 23.

In a letter written to the NCAA DG and signed by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Emmanuel Meribole, he directed that Dana Air’s operations should be suspended due to safety concerns until a comprehensive audit is conducted to ensure the airline’s compliance with aviation regulations which includes safety protocols, maintenance procedures, and financial health.

The letter read: “As the supervisor overseeing our nation’s aviation safety and regulatory compliance, it has come to the minister’s attention that recent incidents involving Dana Air have raised serious concerns regarding both the safety and financial viability of their operations.

“In light of these incidents and with the paramount priority being the safety and well-being of our citizens and travelers, the minister has directed that you immediately initiate the suspension of Dana Airline’s fleet until a comprehensive audit can be conducted. This audit should encompass all aspects of safety protocols, maintenance procedures, and financial health to ensure full compliance with our aviation regulations.

“The recent incidents have underscored the urgency of this matter, and it is imperative that swift and decisive action be taken to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders involved. I trust in your expertise and diligence in carrying out this audit thoroughly and expeditiously. Please keep me informed of the progress and any significant findings throughout this process.”

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The Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) commenced investigation into the runway excursion incident that occurred on Tuesday involving a Dana Air’s McDonnell Douglas MD-82 aircraft at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

NSIB said the incident occurred at 9.20am local time and that preliminary fact-finding revealed that the airlines’ flight 9J0352 with registration number, 5N-BKI, carrying 83 passengers and six crew members, departed Abuja at 8:20am local time and arrived in Lagos around 9:20am. The runway 18L surface was wet due to the rain and the aircraft had a technical problem with its landing gear and experienced directional control problems after landing, which made it veer off the runway to the left and travel onto the grassy area near the runway 18L link 6 turn-off point. There were no reported fatalities or injuries.

Reacting to the development, an aviation security expert, John Ojikutu, told Daily Sun that the minister has no powers to direct that any airline be suspended as such powers rest solely with the regulator.

He said: “This minister is climbing the aviation tree beyond its top leaves. Let those who are close to him tell him that he has no such powers and the international aviation community particularly ICAO is watching us and in particular the NCAA. I said it earlier that he has taken over not only as the minister but more as the chief executive officer of all the agencies. The reports of the responsible agencies are yet to be out and he has already found the airline negligent, how? He has made both the NCAA and NISB irrelevant.

“NCAA has autonomy on safety regulations oversight and enforcement. It also has the responsibility to ensure the implementation of the NISB safety recommendations. None of these belong to the minister and his ministry except there are safety recommendations standing unimplemented by any the operators. When it comes to the statutory responsibilities of the NCAA and the NISB, in the present case of Dana veering off the runway, the minister has no job there.”