Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Monday said that the nation’s emergency rescue agencies are ill-equipped to respond to distress calls.
Mr. Falana stated this at the coroner’s inquest into the cause of the July 3 crash of a Dana airline at Iju-Ishaga, holding at the Senior Magistrate Court, Agbado Oke-Odo, in Lagos.
Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner, adjourned the inquest to Wednesday, July 25.
“It’s a thing of shame that in a situation like this, we had to bring a private company for assistance,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“It was the same scenario that played out in the past, in Ejigbo and in Kwara where we had to wait for three days before we could get Julius Berger’s assistance,” he added.
Eyebrows had been raised over the speed of response to the distress call after the plane crashed at about 3:45p.m.
Testifying at the inquest, Dauda Olaogun, a fire officer at the Lagos State Fire Service, said that the agency responded immediately they received a distress call about the crash.
According to Mr. Olaogun, his men, who went before him, got to the crash scene at 4:10.
“We were there 30 minutes before Julius Berger arrived.
“When I got there at 4:25, I observed that the fire in the building has been put off. I and some area boys on ground put off pockets of fire,” said Mr. Olaogun.
“I went round the building and that was where I saw the pilot, beside the wall,” he added.
Mr. Olaogun could not explain to the court how he was able to identify the pilot of the plane.
“He was suspected dead. I requested for the other agencies that were on ground and we carried him to the front of the building.”
Mr. Olaogun further stated that 13 bodies were recovered on the first day of the crash, including three babies.
“Most of the people in the building did not sustain fire burns. The building fell on them.
“And most of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” Mr. Olaogun said.
For the first time since the inquest began last month, representatives of Dana Airline were in attendance.
But police witnesses were absent.
Chukwu Agwu, counsel to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, told the magistrate that the witnesses had traveled to Abuja “on exigencies.”
Mr. Komolafe appealed to witnesses to appear at the Ikeja High court, the new venue of the inquest.
“If Dana failed to show up today, I’ll order their arrest,” Mr. Komolafe said.
“We have started. Let all the witnesses please note that you are under a duty to be here. You have been summoned and we won’t be shopping for witnesses,” he added.
Mr. Falana told the magistrate to invoke the Magistrate Courts Act to compel witnesses to attend the inquest.
Godswill Akpabio, the Akwa Ibom State governor, and Stella Oduah, the Aviation minister are among those expected to testify at the inquest.
“You have the power to summon any witness,” said Mr. Falana, who initiated the inquest.
“We should not allow any witness to treat the inquest with contempt, which is what we are witnessing now.
Mr. Komolafe maintained that they are engaged in a “fact-finding mission.”
“Nobody will give us the opportunity to wield the big stick. I don’t need it now,” he said.