Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Following the fatal crash in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, over the weekend, the Federal Government has banned Boeing 737 Max airplanes from flying into Nigeria’s airspace, until further notice.
Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made the declaration at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at in Abuja, yesterday.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane belonging to Ethiopian Airline crashed barely six minutes after take off and killed 157 persons on board, among which were two Nigerians- a professor and a diplomat.
According to Sirika, “The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, whose mandate it is to issue advisory, has already issued advisory that nobody should fly into Nigeria or out of Nigeria using Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9, pending the determination of the actual cause of the crash in Ethiopia and also pending the outcome of the response of the manufacturer, which is Messers Boeing.
“Regardless of the enormous safety records of this plane 737, it has caused concern in the world of aviation and you know aviation is universal, whatever affects one affects the other because aircraft will be flying in and out. So, we have issued directive that no operator with Boeing 737 Max 8 or Max 9 should operate into and outside our airports and this is being carried out,” he said.
He added: “Regarding Air Peace and Arik orders, whether those orders were confirmed or intent, it is to our knowledge in the ministry that they won’t be in the country until the next two years or so. And this is enough period to sort out whatever problem it is with that plane. The world of aviation will not be sleeping just as we in Nigeria will not be sleeping. And it is normal standard practice that once a particular aircraft type is involved in accident back-to-back, it is withdrawn from the market and see if there is something they are doing wrong. And if it is confirmed that a particular problem, for instance, landing gear, they will issue an instruction to ground such plane worldwide until the problem is fixed.
“So, this case is not different. We pray for the souls of the departed and pray that the industry will continue to be safe and secure. We promise you that we are alive to our own responsibility, which is to secure lives and property as a government.”
The March 10 crash has triggered a global backlash against the 737 MAX aircraft, with two-thirds of the fleet grounded by aviation authorities or airlines.
In October, the same model crashed in Indonesia minutes after take-off, killing 189 people and sparking concerns over automated flight systems.
Sirika also disclosed that FEC has approved a contract for safety and security equipment and for terminal building in Minna.
According to him, the first memo approved is for the supply and installations of X-ray machines, cargo scanners and walk through metal detectors at Enugu airport at the sum of N529,382,700 with a completion period of 12 weeks.
Sirika said council also approved the award of contract for the procurement of security and safety projects at the nation’s airports Phase II which include the supply of extreme x-tray machines at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport. The contact sum is N4,530,955,500.
He said the installation of the equipment is in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standard.
He said before the inception of the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Nigeria’s score was 60 percent on security but currently its score is 96.7 percent on aviation security.
He said by May when the administration will be sworn in for its second term, Nigeria’s score would have risen to 98 percent in security and safety according to ICAO.
The Aviation minister said council also approved the rehabilitation of Minna airport terminal building which has been abandoned for lack of funding. He said council approved the variation in the sum of N622,544,326.17 for the completion of the airport in 12 months.
The council also approved upgrade and rehabilitation of the main intake transformer, landing system and domestic transformer of 11 KVA underground circuit at the Mallam Aminu Kano International airport at N719,332,450 with completion period of 12 weeks.
Meanwhile, the black boxes from crashed Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane will be sent to Europe for analysis, a spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines said yesterday.
“They will be taken to Europe,’’ Asrat Begashaw said.
He said it would be decided “today or tomorrow” which country would receive the boxes.
Asrat also said the pilot had reported flight control problems and had requested to return to Addis Ababa, from where the plane took off en route to Nairobi.
He said Ethiopian Airlines would consider whether to proceed with an order for more 737 MAX 8s after the preliminary investigation, but that the relationship with Boeing remained close.
“It is very good, intact and even now they are here supporting us. The relationship is six decades old.”
Meanwhile, the Carleton University community, Ottawa, Canada, has expressed shock over the death of Prof. Pius Adesanmi.
‘‘Pius was a towering figure in African and post-colonial scholarship and his sudden loss is a tragedy,” President and Vice-Chancellor of Carleton University, Benoit-Antoine Bacon, said in a statement.
On Saturday, Adesanmi had posted a picture of himself on Facebook, quoting Psalm 139:9-10: “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”