Aviation Minister Stella Oduah said on Monday that the ill-fated Akure-bound Associated airplane which crashed on Oct. 3 in Lagos was an `inevitable act of God’.
Oduah, who spoke to State House correspondents after the inauguration of the National Dialogue Advisory Committee by President Goodluck Jonathan, said that “Nigerian airspace is among the safest around the world’’.
She doused the fear and skepticism expressed over the safety of Nigerian airspace, and encouraged travellers to keep patronising the certified airline operators in the country.
“We have the safest airspace. Nigerians should not be afraid to fly, Nigerian airspace is very safe. We do not pray for accidents but it is inevitable.
“All we do is to do everything to ensure that we do not have accidents. But it is an act of God.
“Though, we do not speculate on the cause of accidents, until that happens, you cannot say this is the cause or that is not the cause.
“But what is obvious and the truth is that in aviation there are shared responsibilities.
“This starts from the man that carries your luggage to the man that makes sure that your boarding pass is issued to you.
“The regulatory agency, the operators, the management, everybody has its responsibility and all must work in tandem for there to be an optimal, secured and safe aviation sector,’’ she said.
The minister debunked the criticism in certain quarters that her ministry abandoned safety issues and concentrated attention on beautifying the airports.
She said such criticism was borne out of ignorance, adding that her focus on infrastructural development was part and parcel of safety measures.
“When you talk about the issue of renovation, the terminal itself is the first safety and security facility that any passenger comes across.
“Everything we have done has been with security and safety as a pivotal of it all. You cannot do anything in aviation without this.
“And what saddens me really is that ICAO says just last week that Nigeria is way above the global average.
“We actually scored 65 per cent. ICAO says Nigeria has the 12th most-safe aviation airspace globally.
“I think it is ignorant to start with, because you cannot have security and safety without funding it, it has to be funded,’’ she said.
The minister said that investigation is still ongoing into the crash and the preliminary report should be out in weeks.
“The experts that are coming from France and the manufacturer of the aircraft, we must have them regardless of how we want to accelerate it.
“We are waiting for them to come so that we can open the engine and find out exactly what happened from them.
“You cannot do any of those without their presence. If you do that, then you have contaminated the investigation. So, we must wait for them.’’
The minister also said that the suspension of operations of Dana air was not connected to the Associated Airline air mishap.
She said it was a routine safety and security measure taken by the regulator.
The recalls the crashed Embraer 120 aircraft with registration number 5N-BIT operated by Associated Airlines, was a private charter flight from Lagos to Akure.
The aircraft, carrying the remains of the former Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Agagu, crashed at the domestic wing of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
Thirteen of the 20 occupants of the airplane, including the crew, were died in the crash.