UPDATED: Court strikes out order seeking to stop Dana Air crash inquest

DANA Air plane crash site
DANA Air plane crash site

Months of investigation into the June 3 crash that killed more than 153, will now continue.

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, Friday, struck out an interim order seeking to restrain the Lagos State government from conducting a Coroner’s inquest into the cause of the June 3 Dana Air crash.

The presiding judge, Okon Abang, also vacated the order he gave on August 28, paving the way for the inquiry to continue pending the outcome of the main suit.

The court awarded N10, 000 in legal fees to the state government, to be paid by the Civil Aviation Roundtable Initiative, which instituted the suit.

The judge said the decision was for the interlocutory application, while the main suit is to be decided on a future date. Hearing for parties wishing to be joined in the main suit is fixed for the October 11.

“If I decide the issue raised by the plaintiffs(CARI) now, the court will have decided the main matter in an interlocutory application without hearing all the parties in the suit,” Mr. Abang said.

Quest to stop the coroner

The Lagos State government began the inquest into air disaster on June 18, but a group, the Civil Aviation Round Table Initiative, headed to the court seeking to stop the investigation.

The group argued that the Coroners’ Law does not apply to aviation related matters as well as deaths arising from aviation accidents.

They also asked the court to quash steps taken by the coroner in summoning or inviting witnesses to testify or give evidence.

Joined in the suit as defendants were Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner; the Lagos State Chief Judge; the Attorney Generals of Lagos State and the federal government.

Also joined were the Federal Ministry of Aviation; Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority; Federal Airports Authority; Accident Investigation Bureau; Nigeria Air Space Management Authority; and Dana Airline.

Dana Air’s volte-face

At the court’s first hearing for the complaint, on September 6, Bolaji Ayorinde, counsel to Dana Airline stunned his co-defendants as well as the presiding judge when he filed a separate motion supporting the plaintiff’s arguments.

The judge described the move as “novel.”

Delivering his ruling on Friday, Mr. Abang said he allowed Mr. Ayorinde’s initial application to assist the court at the time though there was no provision in the court rules allowing such application by the defendant.

Mr. Abang also rejected the position of Collins Ogbonna, counsel to the aviation group, that the refusal of the court to grant their claims would foist on the court a situation of fait accompli.

“This is because if the plaintiffs at the end of the day succeed in their claim, all the steps taken by the 1st – 4th defendants (the Lagos State government) will be set aside and accordingly nullified,” Mr. Abang said.

“The facts presented by the plaintiff must justify the grounds for the reliefs sought. Sentiments and emotions are completely outside the issues to be considered by the court in granting or refusing the grant of the interlocutory injunction,” the judge added.