The Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigeria has received the pledge of support and partnership from members of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation on its various plans for the improvement of accident investigation in Nigeria.
The Committee said it will support the Bureau in its plan to form a synergy with first responders’ to aircraft accidents in order to ensure evidences from crash sites are uncompromised.
These first responders include the Nigerian Police Force, Air Force, Navy, the Federal Road Safety Corps and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), among others.
The Commissioner, AIB, Engr. Akin Olateru, while addressing the Committee during their visit to the Bureau’s Headquarters in Lagos, said that the training of the first responders to enable them secure crash sites and identify evidences was just as important as collaboration at incident sites.
Olateru disclosed that the Bureau has tried to sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with several agencies as such collaborations would make the Bureau’s job less cumbersome.
He said: “We have tried to get some of these agencies to sign MoUs. For instance, an accident can happen in the deep sea. The Nigerian Navy has experienced divers who can dive into the sea to retrieve the wreckage and other important evidence. They need to know what to retrieve.
“The training we hold for the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Police, and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) need to be institutionalised in their ab-initio training so that they can know how to cordon off accident sites and secure vital evidence like the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder. Most of them don’t know what it looks like and because it’s generally called a black box, they go out looking for a black box, which is actually yellow. In truth, training needs to be embedded in these first responders’ curriculum and AIB cannot be doing one-off trainings.”
The Committee has also promised to assist the Bureau in the resuscitation of its Metallurgical Science Laboratory (MSL) by relocating it to a more suitable site within the country.
Engr. Olateru, said that the government invested over N600 million into the building of the MSL, which is currently located at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja but is unfortunately not functioning because it is unsuitably located in front of the Abuja-Kaduna rail line.
Olateru disclosed that in order to ensure that the MSL is functional, the Bureau signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the University of Ilorin on the use of the laboratory.
“The Metallurgical Science Laboratory will benefit Nigeria, students of higher institutions of learning and industries in the country,” he said.
Responding, the Chairman of the Committee, Nnolim Nnaji, while commending the strides the Bureau and its Commissioner have taken despite the funding deficit that the agency experiences, said the Committee assist AIB in the relocation of the laboratory as it would be good if the facility, once used, could save cost on training.
“The Committee will continue to partner with you and assist you to get a place where you can relocate the laboratory because we believe the management of AIB has focus. We will also have to pass the Multi-Modal bill. We are going to facilitate a public hearing for that. Everyone needs to work together for the good of the country,” he said.
Speaking on funding, which the Commissioner noted is one of the biggest challenges AIB faces as it is the only government agency that cannot invoice or generate income, Nnaji assured that it would look into how AIB will get funding, given its importance to safer air travel in Nigeria.
The Committee took a tour of the AIB facility, including the Command and Control Centre where the investigators monitor flights real time to enable them track aircraft in case of any eventualities.