By ADETOKUNBO MUMUNI/SERAP
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a petition to Mr Ekpo Nta Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) urging him to “urgently begin a thorough and efficient investigation into allegations of corruption in the transport and aviation sector starting from the allegations that the Nigerian Ministry of Aviation may have allowed the registration of the Dana plane which crashed in Lagos on Sunday June 3, 2012 despite reports that the plane was purchased with known pre-existing safety issues and past safety concerns record.”
In the petition dated 4 June 2012 and signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organization said that, “We are seriously concerned that this is not the first time an air mishap has claimed a large number of people primarily because of the systemic corruption in the aviation sector and the lack of due diligence or complicity of the regulatory authorities in allowing the registration and operation of aircraft with safety concerns.”
The organization also expressed “concern that pervasive corruption is also responsible for the failure to provide immediate emergency response system that could have helped to reduce the casualties of the Dana airline crash, as our information reveals that the aircraft exploded about 20 minutes after the crash.”
According to the organization, “In the transport sector including the aviation industry, corruption starts right from the registration of unsafe vehicles and aircraft as a result of official bribes. The transport sector is plagued by deadly accidents primarily due to a combination of decrepit infrastructure, human negligence; and high level official corruption and the lack of political will at the very top to deter, prevent and combat the problem. This has resulted in unnecessary loss of lives of innocent citizens, while virtually crippling the sector. At the same time, petty corruption continues to milk motorists their hard earned cash.”
“Diversion of funds for road construction has resulted in the lack of maintenance of the road network, resulting in accidents with serious consequences for families and the nation. The government has failed to provide serviceable roads by failing to build, rehabilitate, and maintain existing road network in the country. The problem is compounded by the continuing failure of the government to enact or implement critical safety legislation,” the organization also said.
According to the organization, “these allegations of corruption constitute a serious breach of the ICPC Act and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. This situation can only continue to exacerbate the increasing level of violation of the citizens’ internationally recognized human right to life and to security and dignity of the person.”
The organization therefore asked the ICPC to:
1. Carry out a comprehensive and transparent investigation of allegations of corruption in the transport and aviation sector and to make public its findings. We believe this would serve as a necessary precursor to strengthening control and reducing the incidence of corruption in the transport sector. Among others, the investigation should seek to obtain the following information: who approved the licence to Dana airline? What if any did the regulatory authorities do to investigate reports of complaints that the registration and operation of the airline has not complied with key safety requirements?
2. Bring to justice all suspected perpetrators of corruption in the transport sector, (whether in government and the private sectors) which has contributed to unnecessary loss of innocent lives on the Nigerian roads and air-space
3. Vigorously persuade policy makers and political leaders to establish Trust Funds for victims of corruption in the transport sector, and ensure that the said funds are used to secure appropriate remedies to the families of the victims
4. Set up a working group to oversee and ensure the integration and implementation of the ICPC legislation and other anti-corruption laws and standards in the effective implementation of transport sector safety laws in the country. The working group should also work to establish operational practices for institutional strengthening anti-corruption work in the sector.
“We trust that your Commission can assert its authority to hold government officials and private sector individuals involved accountable, as the failure to implement national and international obligations is responsible for the growing climate of impunity, which is contributing to further corruption and destruction of lives,” the organization also said.
According to the organization, “the Dana Air MC Donnell Douglas MD 83 has a well- known history of worrying defaults even before original owners US-based Alaska Airlines sold it to Dana Airlines on February 17, 2009. The aircraft was acquired by Alaska Airline in November 13, 1990 with registration number N944AS. However, on November 4, 2002 the aircraft developed fault and had emergency diversion due to smoke and electrical smell in the cabin area, which engineers said was because light ballast had over-heated. Four years after, the aircraft’s health was also called to question when on August 20, 2006, it was again evacuated after landing at the Long Beach, CA due to a chaffed wire bundle that discharged and produced smoke in the cabin area again.”