ABUJA - Nigerian authorities have identified 52 of the bodies from the plane crash in Lagos that killed all 153 passengers on board and at least six people on the ground. The government has suspended the license of Dana Air, promised to audit every airline in Nigeria and punish anyone responsible for wrongdoing. Analysts say this government's credibility and its ability to implement key policies are eroding in the aftermath.
Nigeria ended three days of national mourning Wednesday for the crash of Dana Air flight 992, which crashed into a crowded residential neighborhood in Lagos, killing everyone on board and several people on the ground.
Aviation Minister Stella Oduah says air traffic control records indicate the plane went down after its engines failed:
"From records of communication and radar tracking, the flight went smoothly until 3:42 pm when the captain called air traffic control at Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos declaring mayday. Mayday is a distress call. And reported a dual engine failure," said Oduah.
The flight's black box has been sent to the U.S. to try to determine what made the engines fail. In Nigeria remains the real question, who is to blame?
Speculation can be found on street corners all over Nigeria, the airline must be bribing someone to pass safety checks. The company knew the plane was bad, but wanted to make a profit.
One newspaper reported that some company managers have since fled the country, citing unnamed and unverifiable sources.
Dana Air says the plane went through strenuous safety checks before taking off, pointing out that a commercial airline crew would not embark on a "suicide mission."
Dana Air is a four-year-old company and part of the Dana Group, a Nigeria-based organization that has sold pharmaceuticals since the 1980s and now also sells food, cars, medical equipment and other products in addition to operating the now-grounded airline.
Bello Ibrahim Turkin Gwandu, a political analyst and former managing director of the Nigerian Port Authority, said it is possible that the crash was purely an accident, but the Nigerian people have seen a lot of carnage in recent years, and they will ultimately blame the government.
"It's coming at a period where morale is very low as a result of previous event that happened with Boko Haram and some activities that were against other religions and the considerable amount of social tension that is happening especially with regards to security," said Ibrahim.
Opposition politicians have pounced on the disaster, saying it is a direct result of mismanagement and corruption. Ibrahim adds that regardless of the cause, the crash erodes the government's credibility, which is already suffering from increased security threats and the fact that average people are getting poorer despite an economy that is growing larger.
Aderemi Oyewumi, an international relations specialist on the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper, says without a "holistic" approach at restoring faith in the airlines, the crash could harm the government's ability to attract international investors, a key tenet of the government's economic policy.
"Nigerians should expect heads should roll in the aviation industry and that the government should get really serious about monitoring the airlines, making sure the aircrafts that they have are properly maintained and cutting down on graft in the sector," Oyewum said.
Foreign nationals lost in the crash of what was a domestic flight between Abuja and Lagos include Chinese, French, Lebanese, Canadians and Americans. President Goodluck Jonathan visited the site Monday, and has since ordered a technical audit of all the airlines in the country.
"I'm here with members of the National Assembly, and we will thoroughly investigate this, and the technical team will carry out their responsibility to tell us what went wrong," Jonathan said.
On Wednesday, the president vowed to investigate the "remote and immediate" causes of the crash and punish anyone found responsible. He also promised support to the transport sector, saying the crash was a "regrettable setback" to the government's plans to expand air travel in and through Nigeria.