Lawyers for the families of the victims of a Dana Airlines crash in Lagos, Nigeria said financial compensation has been paid in only 80 cases nearly six months after the June 3 crash.
The plane crashed as it approached the Lagos international airport. It plowed into a residential area 9 kilometers short of the airport killing all 153 on board and 10 people on the ground. Investigators said the crash was caused by engine failure.
The lawyers said the families of the victims are supposed to receive $30,000 in initial compensation, as required by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Act.
Lawyers representing about 40 victims have sent a letter to a committee of the Nigerian Senate to force the airline and its insurers to pay compensation to the families of all the victims. The lawyers also said they have filed a lawsuit in the United States.
Bunmi Awoyemi, one of the lawyers, said they have scheduled a news conference for Thursday in Lagos to bring world attention to what he calls dishonest and deliberate attempts by Dana Airlines and its representatives not to pay compensation to families of other victims of the crash.
“I’m sure you are aware that over 160 died as a result of the crash and, so far, the compensation that has been paid has been paid to about 80 victims, and that compensation is actually the mandatory compensation as stipulated in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, which spells out clearly that $30,000 should be paid immediately by the carrier within 30 days of the crash towards expenses for victims of the crash,” he said.
“Even among the 80 [who received a compensation], about 20 people were paid half of what they were supposed to be paid, which is a clear breach of the provisions of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act. So, we want to bring it to the attention of everyone for the whole world to know that there is a lot of deception going on by the insurers of Dana Airlines and also Dana Airlines itself,” Awoyemi said.
Lawyers representing about 40 victims of the crash have sent a letter to the Nigerian Senate Committee on Aviation to force the airlines and its insurers to pay compensation to the families of other victims.
“The purpose of the letter is to bring it to their attention because they had a number of hearings in the committee a few weeks after the crash. We want to bring it to the attention of the committee so that the committee will be able to summon the stakeholders like the airlines, their insurers, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, so that they can ensure that the $30,000 is paid to the victims of the crash,” he said.
Awoyemi said repeated requests to get Dana Airlines to pay the compensation have not produced the desired results.
“Even there was a particular forum that was held at the offices of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority where the victims’ families were allowed to ask Dana Airlines officials questions, and also their local insurance company here in Nigeria were also there. Unfortunately, the answers they gave were not honest answers, and it was very clear that they were not being straightforward,” Awoyemi said.
He said victims’ lawyers have also filed a tort lawsuit in the United States in October on the same issue.
“One of the major reasons why we decided to file in U.S. courts is because of the major delays that we have in the judicial system in Nigeria. On the average, it takes about 15 to 20 years to conclude a case right from the high court to the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court,” Awoyemi said.
He said they filed the lawsuit in the U.S. not just because of the speed with which U.S. courts dispense of their case loads, but because a lot of U.S. citizens were involved in the Dana Airlines crash. Nine Americans were on the MD-83 aircraft along with other foreigners.