Although the federal government and the insurers of the Dana Air plane that crashed one year ago had assured family members of the victims that compensation would not be delayed, investigations showed that they have not kept their promise.
The insurance company handling Dana Air, Lloyds Underwriters, London, had said the family of each of the victims of the ill-fated airplane, a McDonnell Douglas 83 (MD-83), would be paid $100,000 (N15.58 million). According to the company, the initial sum of $30,000 would be paid within 30 days while the balance of $70,000 would follow thereafter.
However, according to the guidelines, a beneficiary would not be given any compensation without producing a letter of administration from a high court in Nigeria certifying the bearer as the bona fide next-of-kin of the deceased.
Gossipersonline.com findings showed that the rigorous process of getting letters of administration before compensation could be paid is now a very big hurdle to cross for many beneficiaries. Again, bureaucracy of the courts was discovered to be another major impediment. Besides, the fee to be paid to lawyers for getting a letter of administration is about 15 per cent of each compensation money.
One of such individuals is Pastor Daniel Omowunmi, who owns the property at 8/10 Popoola/Olaniyi Street where the accident occurred.
Omowunmi, who claimed that he lost so much to the aircraft accident which razed his property including a warehouse stocked with goods, has described Dana Air management as “criminals” without a human face. The airline, he alleged, has ruined his life.
“I am the legal owner of that property; I have my C of O, all documents. I am the rightful owner of that property. I suffered majorly the effect of that crash on ground.
“They (Dana Air management) destroyed my life, means of livelihood. Till date, there has not been any response. If you go and interview anybody from Dana, you will not hear anything reasonable from them; the best you hear from them is that they are working on it. So, how do I take that to be communication,” said Omowunmi.
However, following the slow payment of the compensation, the House of Representatives announced, penultimate weekend, that it would invite the leadership of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to examine what efforts have been made by the management of the airline since the accident occurred, as it was not satisfied with the compensation the airline has paid so far.
The chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said: “We need to invite NCAA and know how far they have gone. I read in the papers that only a few families have been compensated and I felt very bad. I know that the National Assembly will wade into it, especially the House of Representatives. We are approaching June 3 and it is like a nightmare.”
Onyejeocha noted that the only way to console the families of the victims of the crash was for the authorities to perform their duties according to international best practices, adding that the accident could have been avoided if things had been done rightly.
However, Tony Usdiamen, spokesman for Dana Air, said the airline had lived up to expectations because it paid its insurance premiums to the insurers.
Speaking further on the airline’s relationship with Pastor Omowunmi, he said the airline offered him some money as palliative to enable him get an accommodation which he rejected.
“The pastor in question happens to be one of the two who declined the gesture. I decided to take us back to this gesture, so that you can understand that, from the point of view of the airline, we have done what is considered to be responsible, especially as at the time the accident occurred, to ensure that all those who lost their homes got a place of abode immediately.
“Naturally, when accidents occur, once an airline is fully insured and premiums are up to date and fully paid, the onus is on the insurers to ensure that compensation is paid. As I said before, the process is ongoing with all the victims, ground victims and those onboard and those who died on ground as well. Everyone that has submitted claim forms whether as ground victims or next-of-kin to passengers on board -- all their claims are being dealt with in accordance with the law,” he said.
He maintained that compensation to the ground victims is being delayed because “the law does not state that a certain lump sum should be paid”.
“There are processes that are involved and both parties usually have to agree and, in a case where both parties don’t agree, in order to ensure that what is fair is done for both parties, sometimes the cases are taken to the court, but it is our hope because we want to see to the end of this as quickly as possible,” he stated.
Meanwhile , the Ministry of Aviation said at the weekend that the relatives of some victims of the crash were fighting over who should collect the $100,000 compensation, adding that the squabble was delaying payment.
“The airline fully insured all passengers. The problem is that about 20 families have been fully compensated. For the others, there are family squabbles,” said Dr. George Ossi, a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Aviation.
Ossi was at Saint Leo Catholic Church in Ikeja area of Lagos to represent the minister of aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, at a memorial service for the crash victims.
“Some (families) are in court. Some can’t agree who will take the compensation. If they all had agreed, by now, we won’t be talking about compensation,” Ossi said.
He regretted that the bickering among family members over money made it difficult for relatives to get the letter of administration from the Lagos State Ministry of Justice.
Also at the weekend, the Lagos State commissioner for special duties, Dr Wale Ahmed, disclosed that the government had completed a cenotaph in honour of the 153 victims of the Dana plane crash.
According to him, the cenotaph would be formally unveiled today to mark the first anniversary of the incident.
The commissioner said Governor Babatunde Fashola was expected to interact with the families of the victims while prayers would be made for the repose of the deceased’s souls.
Dana Crash: Lagos unveils cenotaph for victims today
One year after the Dana Air plane crash that threw the country into a state of chaos and mourning, the Lagos State government will today unveil a cenotaph it constructed in remembrance of the 153 victims of crash.
The commissioner for special duties, Dr Wale Ahmed, who disclosed this to newsmen said the state government has decided to mark the first anniversary of the incident.
He said the Lagos State governor Fashola will personally unveil the cenotaph.
Ahmed explained that the highlights of the ceremony would include laying of wreath by the governor and some other dignitaries.
The commissioner said the governor is expected to interact with families of the deceased and commiserate with them, while prayers would also be made for the repose of the deceased.
Ever since the tragic incident occurred the state government has been working assiduously to comfort the families of the victims, he said.
He added that the state governor had also met with the families of the deceased where it was agreed that the anniversary should take place.
The commissioner explained that adequate preparation had been made to ensure a memorable anniversary, saying that lots of lessons had been learnt from the plane crash.