Although the Federal Government and the insurers that insured the ill-fated Dana Airline that crashed recently in Lagos have assured family members of the victims that compensation will not be delayed, unfolding events tend to point otherwise.
Despite the promise that the compensation about 30,000 dollars will begin to get to the beneficiaries within 30 days, the rigorous process of getting Letters of Administration before compensation can be paid is a very big hurdle to cross.
The bureaucracy of the courts is a major impediment which could pose as a clog in the wheel of progress for the beneficiaries. Besides, the fee to be paid to lawyers for getting a Letter of Administration is about 15 per cent of each compensation money.
The insurance company handling Dana Airline, Lloyds Underwriters, London, had said families of each of the victims of the ill-fated airplane, a McDonnell Douglas 83 (MD-83), will be paid $100,000 or N15.58 million, at the exchange rate of N155.84 to the US dollar. According to the company, the initial sum of $30,000 would be paid within 30 days while the balance of $70,000 would follow thereafter.
Investigations reveal that a beneficiary will not be given any compensation without producing a Letter of Administration from a High Court in Nigeria certifying the bearer as the bonafide next of kin of the deceased.
However, getting a Letter of Administration is not an easy feat as the processes involved could drag on for long.
To get a Letter of Administration from any High Court in the country, a beneficiary will proceed to the court with the death certificate of the deceased. Next, a form for Letter of Administration will be given to the beneficiary to be filled. The beneficiary is then required to place an advertorial in any national newspaper to declare that the deceased is actually dead.
If nobody comes forward to counter the advertorial, the beneficiary will then proceed to the court with the newspaper bearing the advertorial. Then, the beneficiary will pay the lawyer an amount equal to 15 per cent of the total compensation money which is the standard charge for getting a Letter of Administration in any High Court in Nigeria.
After all these processes, the beneficiary will be issued the Letter of Administration. However, investigations revealed that due to the extended family culture in Nigeria, two or more Letter of Administration may spring up from one family which could halt or delay compensation to the families of the victims.
Mr. Harold Demuren, Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, in a chat with Sunday Vanguard, sometime ago, revealed that it is the extended family culture brouhaha that stalled the compensation to the families of victims of the Sosoliso plane that crashed in 2006.
Demuren then said that the compensation process was unduly prolonged because different persons kept coming up from each family claiming to be the actual beneficiary of the deceased victim of the Sosoliso crash. According to him, in order not to pay the wrong persons, the compensation payment dragged on for so long.
Last week, the reprsentative of Lloyds Underwriters, London, Otunba Yomi Oshikoya, promised that families of each of the victims of the ill-fated airplane would be duly compensated and that the airline would not cheat any beneficiary.
Oshikoya said the relatives would not be treated below the international standard as enshrined in the company’s policy.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) stipulates that each family of the victims (passengers) of an air disaster is to be paid $100,000 (N15.58m), that of cabin crew members, $150,000 (N23.4m), while each family of pilots will receive $250,000 (about N38.96m).
“By international standards, you are required to pay the sum of $30,000 to the victims as initial payment. By law, the substantive amount is $100,000 and I want to assure you that Lloyds will approach this as per international standard,” Oshikoya said.
On the ground claims, he said the underwriters had contacted a surveyor in Nigeria to visit the site and evaluate the buildings affected and make a comprehensible report available to it. “It is on the basis of the evaluation that compensation would be worked out,” he added.
Meanwhile, the National Insurance Commission, NAICOM, the body in charge of regulating insurance practice in the country, says the ill-fated aircraft was properly insured and all reinsurance contracts were duly entered into. Seven local underwriters are involved in the business.
NAICOM stated that while no amount of money is sufficient to compensate for the loss of dear ones, it will, all the same, ensure that compensation, as stated in the insurance contract between the airline and the underwriter, was adequately paid to all the next of kins of the crash.