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June 11, 2012

Nigeria Launches Airline Industry Probe

by Heather Murdock

ABUJA - In response to the crash of Dana Air flight 992, which killed 153 people on board and more on the ground last week in Lagos, the Nigerian government has assembled a nine-person panel to investigate the technical, legal and financial operations of the country's airline industry.   

Before the Dana Air crash, the Nigerian aviation industry had been doing well for years.  After a series of deadly crashes in 2005 and 2006, Nigeria passed and implemented new laws, eventually earning a U.S. Federal Aviation Authority Category 1 safety rating.

But when the Dana Air flight smashed into a residential neighborhood, killing an estimated 159 people the day after a cargo plane from Nigeria crashed into a bus in Ghana killing 10 people, analysts and opposition politicians immediately said regulators and the airlines must not be doing enough for safety.

Minister of Aviation Stella Adaeze Oduah says the government has given a nine-person panel six weeks to research the airline industry’s safety management, laws, finances and regulators, in order to make “bold recommendations” to the government for reform.

"I wish to assure Nigerians that government is committed to doing whatever is humanly possible to prevent the re-occurrence of such a calamity in future," she said.  

She says their first task will be to find out if the airlines are maintaining Nigeria's legal safety standards.  The committee's work will be augmented by accounting firm Price Waterhouse, which will conduct financial audit of the industry.  

The investigation, she adds, is separate from the legally mandated probe into what caused the crash of flight 992.  The Nigerian government is awaiting the return of voice and data box analysis from the United States in that ongoing investigation.