The victims accused Dana of deceiving the public on compensation.
Some families of the dead victims of the June 3 Dana Air crash in Lagos have said that the attitude of the airline’s management towards compensation claims is “painful.”
At a press conference in Lagos, Thursday, the families said that they are yet to receive the US$30,000 initial compensation, six months after the crash.
It was gathered that about 80 families out of the 120 who submitted claims have been compensated.
“Personally we’ve seen the cat and mouse game they are playing and it’s painful for an organization like Dana Air to toy with people’s lives and there’s no consequences,” said Sanya Shobowale, a lawyer and cousin of Femi Shobowale who was aboard the ill-fated flight.
Bunmi Awoyemi, whose firm is representing 40 victims of the plane mishap, said that there is “a lot of deception going on.”
He said 27 of the clients his firm is representing are yet to be paid.
However, four out of that number got half of the stipulated US$30,000, Mr. Awoyemi said.
“They told them that they should prove that they deserve more than US$15,000. That the babies are not supposed to be paid anything because they don’t have income and dependents,” Mr. Awoyemi said.
The Civil Aviation Act provides that the carrier shall pay at least US$30,000 within 30 days of an aircraft accident to persons who are entitled to claim compensation.
“We have tried severally and in vain, via written and oral communications to get the airline and its insurer’s solicitors to pay our clients their monies as stipulated in the Act, but all our efforts have not produced the desired result,” Mr. Awoyemi said.
More shocking, according to the lawyer, is the listing of two of his clients, Femi Shobowale and Ahmad Dukawa, by Dana and its insurers as having received the initial US30,000 compensation.
On discovery of the “fraud,” Mr. Shobowale said that they began calling the company’s lawyers to correct the error.
Titi Shobowale, the deceased’s wife, said that she met with Dana Air’s lawyer who asked her “to give them some days.”
“Then he (the lawyer) called my lawyer and said I should go and withdraw my case in the US,” Mrs. Shobowale said.
Mr. Awoyemi said that his firm had filed a tort suit in the United States, last month, to press for the total compensation of the families.
“One of the major reasons why we decided to file in US courts is because of the major delays we have in the Nigerian judicial system, sometimes up to 20 years.
“In US, it takes 2 – 3 years from the court of first instance up to the Supreme court,” Mr. Awoyemi added.
On November 27, the lawyers wrote to the Senate Committee on Aviation about the “willful, deliberate and malicious refusal” to compensate the 40 families.
Mr. Awoyemi said that both Dana Air and its insurers – Prestige Assurance Plc and Pritchard Insurance/Lloyd’s of London – are trying to stall the process and frustrate the claimants into walking away.
“They have said that because we have filed lawsuits, they are not supposed to do anything until the suit is resolved,” said Mr. Awoyemi.
“It is very clear that they do not want to pay.”
Tony Usidanem, Dana Air’s Spokesperson, said that claims that the airline’s insurers are not paying compensation are untrue.
Mr. Usidanem told PREMIUM TIMES that, in some cases, there have been delays due to multiple claims – a statement Mr. Awoyemi termed a “total falsehood.”
“In other cases, legal actions have been taken by people who preferred to go to court,” said Mr. Usidanem. “We have always abided by the law and in such cases, the law will take its course,”
The Dana Air Spokesperson also refuted claims that some families received half of the interim compensation claims.
“That is very very unlikely because the law is clear. It is 30 per cent interim advance payment and 70 per cent final payment,” Mr. Usidanem said.
“There is no way that any family will have received US$15, 000. It is not in accordance with the law.”
On the case of Mrs. Shobowale, the spokesperson said that it was an error.
“An apology was tendered right there at the meeting, after confirming that the cheque had actually not been issued,” Mr. Usidanem said.