DANA AIR CRASH: Aviation ministry, NCAA disagree over suspension of airline's operating license

The management of Dana Air on Wednesday denied the suspension of their operational licence in Nigeria in the wake of last Sunday’s air disaster which claimed the lives of more than 150 people, a claim that was swiftly punctured by the aviation ministry.

At a world press conference in Lagos, Wednesday, Francis Ogboro, a director in the company told journalists that only the aircrafts similar to the crashed one were grounded.

“I use this opportunity to tell the world that our licence has not been suspended,” said Mr. Ogboro.

“Every time there’s an incident like this, aircrafts of that type are grounded for checks, and that’s what happened. The licence has not been suspended,” he added.

The airline’s claim has sparked a fresh controversy between the Federal Ministry of Aviation and industry regulator, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, with both organisations singing discordant tunes on the matter.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES shortly after DANA’s press conference ended, the aviation Ministry insisted that the airline’s operating license remain suspended.

“It is not in the place of DANA to say their license has not been suspended,” the spokesperson of the ministry, Joe Obi, told this newspaper. “I speak for the aviation ministry and what I’m aware of is that the airline’s operating license has been suspended indefinitely.”

But when contacted, the NCAA aligned largely with DANA’s position, saying the airline’s license had not been suspended.

“What we only did was to ground their operation while we carry out a recertification process,” NCAA’s spokesperson, Sam Adurogboye said. “They will remain grounded while investigation into the crash lasted.”

Mr. Adurogboye added that if the airline’s operating licence is suspended or cancelled, the NCAA would have no basis to investigate or hold them to account. 

The NCAA is an agency under the aviation ministry and the ministry might feel slighted over the regulator’s position on DANA’s suspension.

At the press conference, DANA’s Mr. Ogboro noted that the airline was not to blame for the crash in which the plane plunged into residential buildings killing all passengers on board and yet to be identified residents.

“The Chief Engineer was returning from Abuja, he was on that flight. He certainly will not have allowed the aircraft to take off. No airline would go on a suicide mission,” said Mr. Ogboro, who spoke on behalf of the management of the airline company.

“It’s too early to say what happened. If you say the two engines failed, this could only be confirmed after the report of the NCAA (Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority).

“22 year old aircraft in the aircraft business is certainly not too old because that aircraft that had that crash had actually had a C-check.

“And sea checks, what it means is, check everything including the frame of the aircraft. That C-check was carried out in September, it is not due for another 4-5 months,” Mr. Ogboro said.

The Dana Air management also denied speculations that top executives of the airline had fled the country since the disaster.

“(The owner of the company) is actually at the airport now maybe you’ll meet him when you come there,” said Mr. Ogboro.

“One of the directors was out of the country, he flew back immediately this incident happened.

“If you go to the airport now as I speak to you, the chairman of the company is there, the managing director is there,” Mr. Ogboro continued.

“I had meetings with them up till 11 o’clock last night and they are all meeting at the airport as we speak.”

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