Some families of the victims of the Dana Air mishap that occurred on June 3 have agreed to come together and make a “formidable force” to enable then recover their compensation claims against the airline’s insurers.
The families reached this consensus at a forum organized by the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) on Saturday, in Lagos; the families with the help of a team of lawyers, will also consider international litigation against the aircraft and the aircraft's engine manufacturers amongst others. "You have to clarify who is entitled to claims," said Ajibola Dalley, an aviation lawyer. "Usually, when these things happen, the insurance companies take over. "It is no longer the airline that is calling the shots, and usually as business people, they'd rather not pay" Mr. Dalley added. Mr. Dalley stated that the Montreal Convention (which is under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act) - a set of rules that applies to airlines' liability in the course of an accident - says that victims' families are entitled to a minimum of US$100,000 after 30 days. According to Mr. Dalley, the families (or next of kins) risk losing out entirely from the compensation benefits if the process is not wrapped up within two years of the incident. "They usually ask for a letter of administration which could take years... So get a counsel to put in for the letter on your behalf. If the victim has a will, then he'll put in a letter of probate," said Mr. Dalley. "Under the Montreal Convention, there is a limit of two years. "If in two years, you haven't received your compensation, you will not be able to sue or go to court. "So by June 4, 2014, you will not be able to do anything," Mr. Dalley said. A solidarity forum The forum, which the organizers said was to show solidarity with victims' families, also aimed at advising and guiding them on their options and rights as well as assist in their post-trauma rehabilitation. "We can't know your pains because we are not wearing your shoes," said Yinka Oyinlola, NLI's chief executive officer, in his opening remarks. "We are not gathered here to vent our anger, as angry as we may be. "We are gathered to do something to avoid or minimize future disasters," said Mr. Oyinlola. The NLI said they have concluded plans to commence a 'Safer Sky Initiative' - that will provide opportunities for people who observe certain anomalies in aircrafts to be able to report them. "We are going to be working with regulators to ensure that we do that which is right," Mr. Oyinlola said. The management - or representatives - of Dana Airline who were invited to the forum were absent. However, they sent a "public announcement" signed by the management which stated that they have commenced "interim payment to the next of kins who have completed their legal obligations." "Since the incident, all of the senior management have been focused on providing assistance to the families," the letter dated July 13th read. Left in the cold Chizoba Mojekwu, whose sister was in the ill fated flight, said that they have been "abandoned" by the government. "A week after the incident, we had a meeting with Governor Fashola. There were American (seven of their citizens were Nigerians), Canadian, Chinese representatives and they were speaking for their citizens. "No one was speaking for us," said Ms. Mojekwu, who broke down in mid speech. "You can't help but be angry when our National Assembly sit down and tell Dana to pay the 100,000 dollars as if the lives of our loved ones are worth 100,000 dollars. "We know accidents happen but it is how we manage it that is very critical," Ms. Mojekwu added. Jim Morris, an aviation specialist, while discussing safety issues and causes of air crashes stated that the preliminary report by the Accident Investigation Bureau on the cause of the air disaster "leaves more questions than answers." "The Flight Data Recorder's digital tape was melted which leaves only the Cockpit Voice Recorder. "Unfortunately, there is just 31 minutes of recording on it," said Mr. Morris, a qualified Boeing pilot. "It could have been that 17 minutes after take off, they noticed a minor problem. "We really need the full transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder," said Mr. Morris. Mr. Morris noted that fuel issues and bird strikes are the common causes of loss of aircraft engine power and usually affects one engine. "If the aircraft did lose power in both engines, it is extremely rare."