The families expressed their dissatisfaction with the Dana.
The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, and some family members of the victims of last year’s ill-fated Dana Air mishap, unveiled a cenotaph at the site of the crash at Iju-Ishaga, Lagos.
They also unveiled a tomb block engraved with 157 names of the victims of the plane crash.
“This cenotaph which we are unveiling here today will ensure that their memories never die,” said Mr. Fashola.
“This monument will stand as a permanent memorial to these family men, women and children; and we will cherish each of their stories – stories of potential and of fulfilment, stories of true heroes,” he added.
On June 3, 2012, a Dana MD-83 aircraft crashed into a two storey building in the crowded suburb killing all 153 people on board.
The horrific air disaster also claimed the lives about 10 people on the ground.
However, Lagos State government’s records at the anniversary stated that there were four ground victims who perished in the crash.
Mr. Fashola urged the victims’ families not to be crest fallen.
“A year may seem like a long time, but for the families and friends of the men women and children we lost, that day does not feel like history,” Mr. Fashola said. “The memories of that day are probably as fresh as they are painful; particularly today when you are forced to confront the thoughts you may have pushed to the innermost recesses of your minds, just to enable you get from one day to the next.”
“What does one say at a time like this? What does one say when words will never be enough?
“Many of us cannot even begin to imagine how great your suffering must have been this last one year,” he added.
For the victims’ family members who attended the ceremony, it was a reminder of the pains of the last year’s accident.
Chizoba Mojekwu, whose sister was aboard the ill-fated flight, said that attending the memorial was “difficult” for her because she is standing at the place where “it happened.”
“I’ve been living a life that maybe my sister was on holiday,” said Ms. Mojekwu, Director of Human Resources at the Central Bank of Nigeria, who also lost eight colleagues to the crash.
“They say time heals all wounds. Sometimes I believe that because I’ve lost my mum and for 14 years we still feel some of that pain.
“But this is very raw and we are still grieving,” Ms. Mojekwu added.
Ms. Mojekwu called on aviation authorities to take steps to forestall a recurrence of the incident.
“There is still much to do. Issues of what really happened to this flight remain unanswered,” Ms. Mojekwu said.
“Also the issue of compensation. It is easy to blame the insurance companies but Dana Air has to step up and ensure that people are treated with respect and with dignity,” she added.
Another family member of the victims, Ben Anyene, said that those who were directly affected “were pained, angry, and despondent.”
“The crash could have been avoided if human lives are valued in this country,” Mr. Anyene said.
“We should not throw up our hands in resignation that the plane crash was an act of God. God does not kill his own,” he added.
Mr. Anyene frowned at the restoration of the operational licence of Dana Air despite that the details of what caused the crash has not been revealed.
“Among us (victims’ families) we have the reach and competence to engage those in the aviation industry. The blood of our loved ones must not be shed in vain,” said Mr. Anyene.
On plans by the Ministry of Aviation to unveil a cenotaph in Abuja to commemorate the one year anniversary, the families said that they were not informed.
“I never heard about the plan by the federal ministry of Aviation to unveil a cenotaph. A lot of the families here were not told,” said Mr. Anyene.
The families also expressed gratitude to the Lagos State government for its assistance and making “a huge difference in the lives of the families here present.”
“The state government provided mortuary, ambulances, pathological services including DNA analysis to ensure that our people’s bodies were identified and properly buried,” Mr. Anyene said.
“The government paid all the cost,” he added.
‘Improved Emergency Response’
Mr. Fashola said that the state, in the aftermath of the crash, has improved its response capacity, trained and continued to train its first responders as well as developed response protocols and acquired necessary equipment.
“We convened a Disaster and Emergency Management Summit for all the States in the South West, at which we shared our experience and information.
“The entire incident is properly documented for posterity, with copies in the Attorney General’s office and the Governor’s office, with details of what we did well and what we could have done better to avoid our past mistakes.
“God forbid it, if such a disaster should recur, we are much better prepared to respond,” Mr. Fashola added.
In his speech, Stella Oduah, the Aviation Minister, said “every effort” is being made to prevent the errors of the past.
“We are in touch with Dana on the issue of compensation to the various families and they have assured us that they are doing everything that is possible to hasten the payment, apart from certain problems within families that are impeding,” said Ms. Oduah, who was represented by George Afamefuna, Permanent Secretary at the ministry.
“I assure the governor of Lagos State that sooner than later, we shall conclude the issue of compensation,” he
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