Dangers of ignoring information sharing

THE country’s aviation sector has again been enmeshed in a fresh controversy following the recent disagreement between the Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the management of Air Peace Airline over an alleged violation of safety rules.

AIB is a government agency saddled with the responsibility of investigating and unraveling the probable or remote cause of any civil aircraft accident and serious incident arising out of, or in the course of air navigation and occurring either in or over Nigeria, or occurring to Nigerian aircraft elsewhere.

Therefore, the fundamental objective of AIB is to improve aviation safety by determining the circumstances and causes of air accidents and serious incidents, and providing safety recommendations intended to prevent recurrence of similar accidents. The purpose of this is not to apportion blame or liability.

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The paramount importance is the role being played by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) whose functions include ensuring airlines operating in the country, other aviation agencies and other key relevant authorities such as ground handling companies comply with all critical safety rules guiding and guarding flight operations.

While other agencies like the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology also have their roles to play towards safety in the country’s airspace and at the airports, one thing that should obviously bind them together for the purpose of achieving a seamless safe aircraft movements between Nigeria and other parts of the world is ‘information gathering and sharing’.

This brought to the fore the recent accusation of Air Peace by the  AIB Commissioner, Akin Olateru, of flouting regulations governing the reportage of serious incidences. Rather than the airline reporting to it of the incidents, Olateru declared that the bureau only got to know about it through a submission of a Mandatory Occurrence Report’ (MOR) subsequently filed at NCAA by the airline as a direct result of the Bureau’s visit to Air Peace office on June 6, 2019.

Swiftly, the Air Peace management through its Chairman, Allen Onyema disagreed with AIB saying, contrary to the statement from the AIB that the airline actually “duly notified the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) of the incident on May 16, 2019, before it followed up with a written communication and subsequently filed an MOR on May 17, 2019, with reference number APL/QM/279/19.

“The said MOR filed by the airline was received and signed for by the NCAA on the same date. The airline complied with the statutory time-line for the filing of MOR.”

In the midst of this melee, many questions which are calling for answers include: where lies the the position played by the NCAA in this case as the regulatory body that is supposed to work with AIB when such incidents occur?

Agreed that Air Peace might have erred by not reporting the incident to the AIB directly, but since it reported to the NCAA, the question is; did the NCAA direct the airline to the AIB and did it share the information with the Bureau as a sister agency when the airline contacted it?

What can be deduced from this controversy is that the Nigeria’s aviation agencies hardly share information which is the worst thing that can happen to a sector like aviation because of the damning consequences this may bring.

If only the NCAA and other relevant aviation agencies realised how communication lapses between the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was a major contributory factor responsible for the death of thousands of Americans during the September 11 attacks, they will not play politics with information sharing.