Aggrieved families of those who died in the Dana Air disaster of June 3 have perfected plans to sue the company for additional N1billion as compensation aside from the $100,000 each family is to get under the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (NCARs).
The fresh suit, according to the lawyer of the victims’ families, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) was as a result of alleged gross negligence on the maintenance of Dana’s aircraft, which led to the death of 153 passengers on board and an additional 10 on ground.
During a press briefing in his office in Lagos, yesterday, Agbakoba said the families would be filing a suit of a Class Action against the airline for the enforcement of its clients’ claims for compensation and collective right to sue, emanating from the accident.
He quoted Section 49 (2) of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, which makes the owner of an aircraft liable for all material losses or damages caused by it whilst in flight, at take off or landing.
“If you want to go on to claim higher than that and I think we are going to do so invariably, we will have to prove that the aircraft was so negligently managed and flown from Abuja to Lagos and the result of the death of the 153 people would mean that we will be making a claim of a billion naira for the accident. Again, I think if the AIB report suggests that there was gross and reckless negligence, then under the law the Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can prefer a charge of manslaughter,” he explained.
According to him, the firm had already requested the commencement of a coroner’s inquest by the Chief Coroner of Lagos State to ascertain the immediate cause of death of all the victims of the crash.
He added that the findings of the coroner’s inquest would be a separate liability for Dana Air. “We have requested that the Chief Coroner of Lagos State commences an immediate inquest into the cause of death of all the victims of the crash. So, the coroner’s inquest will throw more light on the immediate causes of death of the 153 passengers on board and the inquest starts today (Monday).
We also in our law firm have issued a letter to Dana holding them liable for what has happened because under the Montreal Convention, the air operators should immediately after 30 days of the accident pay $30,000, without prejudice to whatever is the final liability. Then they are also required under the convention which is part of Nigerian law, under civil aviation act of 2006 to a further $70,000 bringing it to $100,000. The act says that the facts of the accident are sufficient to hold Dana accountable”, he said.
Agbakoba noted that most of the 34 accidents the country has witnessed since 1969 have been caused pilot incompetence, adding that pilot competence play an important factor in aviation safety. “ Pilot competence is a very important factor in aviation safety. If you don’t have competent pilots, you will obviously have accidents.
A pilot must be able to properly calibrate the altimeter of the plane that tells him how to descend. The crash that took the life of Abacha’s son was due to poor calibration. So, when you have this type of pilot flying and killing people and they are not held accountable, then you will keep having problem”, he stated.