By Femi Falana
Last week, the Management of Dana Airline announced that compensation of $100,000 would be paid to the dependants of each of the passengers killed in the tragic crash which occured in Lagos on Sunday, June 3, 2012 in accordance with the provisions of the law. Since the statement does not represent the correct state of the law it is pertinent to state as follows:
(1) The said sum of $100,000 is the first tier payment otherwise known as Special Drawing Right under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention. It is not an extra payment but a strict liability amount payable under the Convention which has been domesticated in Nigeria.
(2) The dependants of the deceased are also entitled to special and general damages which may not be less than N100 million per passenger depending on the responsibilities borne by each of them in their lifetime. Such amount of money for loss of expectation of life is payable by Dana Airline for gross negligence arising from the plane with defective dual engines and the Federal Government for failure to enforce the relevant regulations, failure to provide emergency landing for the plane and the inexplicable delay in providing the fire service equipment and medical services and other acts of gross negligence which led to the avoidable death of the passengers and the crew.
(2) The dependants of the members of the public who were killed at the site of the crash are equally entitled to a greater amount of compensatory damages because the deprivation of the fundamental right to life of such persons is illegal and unconstitutional.
(3) The owners and tenants of the houses that were burnt or touched by the fire that gutted the aircraft are entitled to have them rebuilt or replaced by Dana Airline and the Federal Government. I have confirmed that the provision of dehumanising accommodation for them in dormitories at a refugee camp at Agege in the outskirts of Lagos has increased the mental and psychological trauma unleashed on such innocent victims. If the accident had occured in Ikoyi or Victoria Island would the Lagos State Government have taken the victims to a refugee camp at Agege? As the occupants are entitled to have their houses rebuilt they should not be kept in transit camps but in hotels or decent houses whose expenses should be borne by Dana Airline and the Federal Government. In other countries passengers whose flights are cancelled are always lodged in hotels by defaulting airlines. Why then should the occupants of the houses destroyed by the Dana inferno be turned to beggars or refugees as a result of the avoidable tragedy?
In view of the foregoing the Federal Government and the Management of Dana Airline should embark on the payment of just and fair compensation to the dependants of the passengers and crew in the aircraft, the members of the public who were killed as well as the people displaced as a result of the crash. Having requested the Lagos State Chief Coroner to set up an inquest into the tragic crash we shall press for payment of adequate reparation to all the families of the crash victims by the Federal Government and Dana Airline. Just recently the Coroner directed the Dangote Sugar Company to pay compensation to the dependants of those who were killed in the ghastly motor accident caused by the driver of one of its tankers on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on August 16, 2010.