Victims cry for justice as Dana Air resumes flights

Dana air Exactly seven months after its plane crashed in a Lagos suburb, killing 153 people, Dana Air yesterday resumed its operations.

The airline’s return to business followed the clearing of the hurdles set by aviation authorities after the crash.

Its maiden flight 9J0359 on its MD-83 aircraft took off from the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2 in Lagos to Abuja.

As early as noon, the airline’s ticketing personnel were at the terminal, selling tickets to passengers for the 4.20 pm flight.

The airline sold one-way ticket to intending passengers heading for Abuja from Lagos at N14, 400.

With Dana’s return, the number of domestic airlines operating in the country has increased to five. The others are Arik, Aero, IRS and Med-View.

A ticketing officer, who preferred to remain anonymous, told NAN that the fare was aimed at attracting passengers and to appreciate them for the support given to the airline during its trying period. Other airlines charge N24, 800 for a one way Lagos to Abuja trip.

After some hours of pre- flight preparations, the airline closed its ticket counter. Boarding announcement followed and the plane departed at 4.14 pm.

Passengers boarded the aircraft through Gate 8 of the MMA2.

Most would-be passengers said they were watching to see how the inaugural flight would go, before deciding on their patronage of the carrier.

It could not be ascertained how many passengers boarded the flight, but workers at the MMA 2 said they saw many passengers on the queue, buying tickets. Officials of the airline also did not give details of the flight.

An official of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. James Shallangwa, said yesterday in Abuja that Dana will operate a flight to Lagos from Abuja today.

Shallangwa, Head of Commercial at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Internatonal Airport, Abuja, said Minister of Aviation Princess Stella Oduah had issued a resumption letter to the airline to recommence operation after its plane crashed in Lagos on June 3, last year.

Mr Tony Usidamen, the Head, Corporate Communications, Dana Air, confirmed the resumption. Mr Kayode Adeniran, the Dana Station Manager at the NAIA, said the airline would have its inaugural flight at 9:45a.m. today from Abuja to Lagos.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) revoked Dana’s operation licence, pending proper investigation into the cause of the crash.

In September, last year, the Federal Government reinstated the airline’s licence and allowed it to resume without any flight operations. In December 2012, NCAA issued a new Air Operators Certificate to Dana Air after it completed recertification.

But, the victims of the crash, who are yet to be compensated for property lost to the disaster which claimed over 150 lives, said the airline had been unfair to them.The victims, including widows and young parents with many children, have cried out to both the Federal and Lagos State governments to ensure that what is left of their lives is not shattered.Those who spoke to The Nation lamented the insincerity with which the airline has treated their case. Spokesman of ‘seriously affected victims’ Chike Okwuosa said he was disappointed that the Federal Government allowed the airline to address their matter with levity.He said: “My lawyer, Mr. Monday Ubani, told me they have not done anything. He said after several letters to them, they wrote more than two months ago that they needed additional information, which he forwarded to them.”But till now, nothing has been done; instead, we heard they are resuming their business when they have destroyed ours. Is that fair?”Ubani, who spoke to The Nation on the telephone, said he expected the government to ensure that all affected persons were compensated by the airline before returning the licence to the airline.He said: “What Dana is doing is really crazy. They have not paid anything or said anything to the victims. They wrote me two months ago that they wanted additional information, which I immediately provided.”Since then, I have not heard from them. The government should have ensured that they settle all the affected persons before returning their licence to them. But since their licence has been returned even before now, the government should compel them to attend to the aggrieved persons.”They are just trying to tie people down. They killed a lot of people, destroyed so many property and no one seem to be saying anything.”I have tried to avoid litigation, but if by the end of January they are still nonchalant about the plight of those their business are adversely affected, we will have no other option than to go to court.”Pastor Daniel Omuwunmi, who lost over N500 million to the disaster, said the airline, after a series of letters from his counsel – Messrs Dele Adesina and Co., made an offer of $30, 000. Omuwunmi, who spoke through a counsel at the law firm of Olumide Olaiya, told The Nation that the offer was rejected because the airline had not even written to accept or negotiate his claims.He said: “They have not done anything. We never heard from them until the last working week of December when they made an offer of $30, 000 to Pastor Omuwunmi as advance payment.”What are they advancing? All the efforts we made to bring them to the negotiation table were rebuffed. We expected them to reply our letter, or even say what they intend to pay from the claims before them which are verifiable.”$30,000 is less than N5 million. So, a man who lost nothing less than N500 million, what will $30, 000 do for him? He rightly rejected the money. Besides, $30, 000 was the same amount they paid to all on board victims as advance. So, why come to offer a man who lost everything he had $30, 000 without even writing to acknowledge or reject his claims?”They said their insurers are still processing our claims and so, we are also waiting to hear from them.”

The Nation

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