From obscurity to one of pride, not only for Nigeria, but the West African sub-region, that is the story of the Accident Investigation Bureau. WOLE SHADARE writes
The Civil Aviation Act 2006 established the Accident Investigation Bureau as an autonomous agency that reports to the president of the federation through the minister of aviation.
The agency was, at inception, almost unknown, not just because of a lack of ideas to drive it, but the political will to make it rank amongst its peers around the world.
Vista of opportunities
The appointment of Commissioner/CEO of the agency, Akin Olateru, an aircraft engineer, in 2017, opened a vista of opportunities and put the agency on a global pedestal.
AIB, through him, has scored a lot of firsts and has put aviation in Nigeria into global reckoning. One cannot fail to speak about Olateru and his AIB in glowing terms.
The plaudits for him continued recently when the joint aviation committees of the National Assembly on Aviation, led by Senator Smart Adeyemi and Nnolim Nnaji, as part of their oversight functions to AIB and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), lauded him for his achievements, describing him as an asset to aviation in Nigeria.
Also, a member of the committee on aviation, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, praised Olateru after he made his presentation, detailing the giant strides made by the agency within just five years of rigorous work done to reposition AIB.
It also came as a huge surprise that AIB is the only avia tion agency in the country that has provided life-saving defibrillators in all its offices across the nation.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, expressed sadness over the death of an air traffic controller who slumped and died on duty last year in Abuja as a result of a heart attack.
He called for the provision of defibrillators in all the airports around the country. A defibrillator is a device that gives a high-energy electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest.
Olateru had pursued and defended the call for the establishment of an independent unified multi-modal investigation body charged with the responsibilities of carrying out an investigation of occurrences involving all modes of transportation with the aim of promoting and enhancing safe transportation in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) bill, he said, would reinforce safety in all modes of transportation in Nigeria.
He added that the proposed bill, if passed into law, would also provide an adequate legal and institutional framework for the regulation and administration of safety transportation occurrences in Nigeria.
He used the occasion of the visit of the lawmakers to appeal for a quick passage of the bill.
Adeyemi and Nnaji promised that the National Assembly would do everything within their power to do the ‘needful.’
Olateru’s achievements are worth mentioning. They are not limited to the release of six final reports with safety recommendations, signing of a pact with France on Executive Technical Cooperation Programme (ETCP), new Conditions of Service (CoS) for AIB after 14 years, opening and commissioning of two regional offices in Kano and Enugu, commissioning of well-equipped Command and Control Centre, the review of the bureau’s regulations through stakeholders meeting and organisation of a symposium in collaboration with the US NTSB/ Safe Skies and continuous human capacity training for all staff.
Besides, within the past year, the bureau’s Flight Safety Laboratory got certified in accordance with the ISASI flight recorder working group and ICAO’s standard practices and procedures for the purposes of investigations.
This was a laboratory that was moribund before Olateru assumed office. Other achievements include the appointment of one of the bureau’s investigators by ICAO as the BAGAIA new Commissioner, training of 400 security Personnel (Police, Road Safety and Civil Defence) on Air Disaster Management, training of aviation journalists on Investigation Management & Media Relations in collaboration with Southern California Safety Institute (SCSI) and increase in staff strength.
Assistance to neighbors
For the first time in the history of AIB-N, the Bureau was requested by ICAO to investigate an air crash in Sao Tome and Principe, even as neighbouring countries are signing Memoranda of Understanding with the agency for support on accident investigation. AIB-N has become a force to be reckoned with in the sub-region, playing notable leadership roles.
On the heels of that was the collaboration between AIB on one hand and the United States National Transportation Safety Board avia(NTSB) and ICAO on the other in training 18 AIB staff who were recruited in 2013, but were not trained.
Besides, 22 staff of the agency were sent to the United State for on-the-job training in accident investigation at NTSB.
The training did not end with AIB personnel only, because when an accident occurs, several agencies, including the Nigerian Police Force, Air Force, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), among others, are involved in search and rescue operations.
Their engagement at crash sites, besides search and rescue, is to prevent intruders from tampering with evidence that would aid successful investigation findings.
To sharpen their knowledge, AIB assembled over 400 first responders to aircraft accident sites, with participants drawn from the Nigeria Police and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
So impressed are senators Olujimi and Abba Moro that they wondered what would become of the agency when Olateru leaves AIB-N, as he cannot remain ‘forever’ as the Commissioner.
Olateru is confident that the structure put in place by the agency to groom capable hands and thoroughbred accident investigators and some support staff would help to sustain whatever they have put in place, adding that the leadership would determine what becomes of the agency