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Sack of Harold Demuren - The Sun

By The Citizen
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The recent sack of Mr. Harold Demuren from office as Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is long overdue. Following the crash of the Dana Air aircraft which claimed about 163 lives on June 3, last year, reports had been rife that the crashed plane was not in a good shape to fly and that the NCAA, under Demuren's management, was negligent to have cleared it for flight.

Subsequent investigations by a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives revealed that the ill-fated aircraft had had many return flights on account of technical faults before the crash, yet the NCAA continued to approve it for flight operations. The report of the National Assembly investigation presented to the House of Representatives on December 19, last year, by the chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Mrs. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, read in part: 'For the period under review, Dana operated 14 air returns caused by system failure, which is sufficient indication of danger.

Up to the time of the report, NCAA is still without any licensed engineer type-rated on MD83, yet it is going ahead with technical audit on Dana operations (with MD 83 aircraft) with a view to restoring its licence. This constitutes negligence.' The National Assembly had at that time recommended the sack of Demurin for negligence, but the Federal Government did not act on the recommendation.

Rather, it went ahead to restore Dana Air licence. However, on March 17, the Federal Government suspended Dana's operations over safety concerns in respect of one of its aircraft. President Goodluck Jonathan, who approved the sack of Demuren in line with the provisions of Section 8 (3) a and b of the Civil Aviation Act of 2006, said it was based on his 'poor internal audit' and 'inability to achieve quality assurance' in the aviation industry. Captain Fola C. Akinkuotu has since been nominated as new Director-General, and his name sent to the Senate for confirmation.

The exit of Demuren from NCAA presents a fresh opportunity for cleansing of the Augean stable of the agency. For many years, the organisation under the administration of Demuren, had been reeling under sundry allegations such as over-inflated contracts and high-handedness. The Senate and the House of Representatives joint committee report indicted him for serious anomalies including oversight inadequacies, manpower/equipment mismatch, discrepancies in award of contracts, and several other issues. The allegations and counter-allegations on Demuren's administration had become so rife that they could not but constitute a distraction to him.

It is good, therefore, that he has been relieved of this job so that the task of reforming the NCAA for better performance can begin in earnest. One fact that the probe of the Dana Air crash and the role of the NCAA in the disaster has confirmed is the scant regard for human life in the country. It is disturbing to learn that a clearly problematic aircraft that had been recording recurring air returns on account of technical faults was allowed to operate a passenger flight and ended up killing about 163 people.

This cavalier attitude to aviation safety in Nigeria is condemnable. Although the Federal Government hinged Demuren's sack on his unsatisfactory response to concerns expressed by aviation stakeholders on the perceived poor internal audit and quality assurance within the NCAA, his sack should only be a first step towards the reforming of the NCAA for better performance. This sack should not be an end in itself.

It should culminate in the restructuring of the internal workings of the NCAA for better service delivery, to ensure that the negligence that has been alleged to have contributed to this crash does not recur. Negligence and all other malpractices that compromise aviation safety should be addressed in a comprehensive manner with the objective of making air travel in Nigeria safe. Aviation is too sensitive a sector to trifle with.