by Temie Giwa
The recent drama about the N225 million BMW shopping spree is ironic and incredibly sad, especially when one considers reports that the NCAA, agency in charge of airline safety, air worthiness standard, aerodrome and airspace stands, air transport regulation, and consumer protection might be cashed strapped.
About a year ago, I needed to travel to Abuja from Lagos to register for the National Youth Service Corps scheme. I did not look forward to it since it was just a couple of months after the Dana Air disaster that killed 168 Nigerians. The cost and complete lack of customer service were bottlenecks as well. I delayed buying my ticket for a couple of months until finally I had to admit that I simply could not risk my life and I went to Abuja by road. I wasn’t any safer on the roads, I realised, but it was more in my control than putting my trust in the hands of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Aviation. I was simply not courageous enough. After 10 hours of gallops, crazy army checkpoints, and a couple of vomit bouts I made it into Abuja. I will never do that again, but I don’t suppose I could fly in Nigeria either considering that the sector is an unregulated disaster killing and severely derailing Nigerian lives and dreams.
In two and a half years, there have been seven fatal air mishaps, two of them domestic, with almost two hundred casualties. Two or three almost fatal mishaps, the latest of them was just last week when an IRS Airline aircraft was helped to crash-land in Kaduna. There are many reasons for all these fatality and while the person responsible for managing Nigeria’s Aviation Industry seems to think God flies airplane, the truth is that most of these crashes had reasons and most of them, if not all, could have been prevented if someone had done their job.
The recent drama about the N225 million BMW shopping spree is ironic and incredibly sad, especially when one considers reports that the NCAA, agency in charge of airline safety, air worthiness standard, aerodrome and airspace stands, air transport regulation, and consumer protection might be cashed strapped. Yet, we all know that nothing will come out of this. If the death of almost 200 people could not get the minister to sit up and do her job, could not get her boss, the president to make her, then nothing will happen.
But then many want to continue flying, since it’s the sanest and fastest method of linking the Lagos, centre of commerce to Abuja, centre of Government. So what will work? What will help us save our lives?
A government is uniquely created to do one thing better than individuals and companies. One can make the argument that a government’s main role that must be central to all its action is to protect the interest of the collective over the whims of the private sectors and individuals. That is what governments do, act to protect our interests in all facets so that we can all have an easier time to pursue happiness in whatever guise we find it. Governments must provide oversight and regulate the private sector because the profit motive often makes the private sector unable to regulate itself. When money is in direct conflict of collective interest in the private sector, especially when risk is diffused and consequences are far, only a government that has been consented to by the governed, can stand and choose our interest, not the CEO of a company and certainly not its shareholders. Businesses make money, and governments protect our interests.
In the case of the Nigerian aviation, the Ministry of Aviation is tasked with making sure that airlines fly planes that are airworthy, the ministry failed to do this when that Dana airplane crashed, when the Associated Airline plane crashed, and when the IRS plane almost crashed. If the NCAA had done its job, air travel would actually be one of the safest methods of travel. The ministry is tasked to protect our collective interest by looking into the books of the airline to make sure that incidents like this do not happen.
Next week Tuesday, the Minister of Aviation and her subordinates have been invited to speak with your representatives and answer questions. If this meeting goes as it is expected to go, lawmakers will talk, ministers will condescend and prevaricate and that will be all. But this is your life, and these are your representatives. Isn’t enough enough?
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.