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Nigeria's Air Sector Under Scrutiny Following Several Crashes


The Nigerian government has announced measures to reform the country's troubled aviation industry, after five recent aircraft crashes. On Friday, one person was killed and three others were injured in a helicopter crash in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta.

The cause of the helicopter crash is under investigation. Moses Weefu, speaking on behalf of Odegene Air Shuttle, owner of the helicopter, said it was fairly new.

"This was a company flight," he said. "Our crew and our managing director and our surveyor were on the helicopter. Our helicopter was fairly new. The helicopter was manufactured in 1998 and it started flying in 1999."

Nigeria's aviation minister was fired in the aftermath of last month's plane crash that killed nearly 100 people, including the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims.

The new aviation minister has directed all airline operators to ensure strict compliance with safety regulations, or risk a ban and possible jail time.

The government also has approved $150 million to improve infrastructure, based on the report of an investigation committee.

Government spokesman Frank Nweke made the announcement after a Cabinet meeting in Abuja.

"When the funds have been released and the recommendations fully implemented, we expect to have the control towers in all airports in the country refitted," he explained. "Because part of what emerged following their findings was the fact that most of these control towers were last refitted in the '70s. We also expect that, when these recommendations are fully implemented, there will be total radar coverage of Nigerian air space, and instrumentation that is needed for enhanced safety operations within the Nigerian air space will also be deployed in those airports."

Experts say Nigeria faces enormous challenges in its bid to improve aviation safety. Poor funding, lack of autonomy for key institutions and lack of discipline have been cited as some of the factors undermining air safety in Nigeria.

More than 300 people have been killed in three major civilian Nigerian air tragedies in just over 12 months, drawing widespread outrage in Africa's most populous nation and top oil producer.

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