Dana Air sanctioned three times in 12 years over safety issues – Investigation

Aviation experts Wednesday slammed the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo (SAN), for directing the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to suspend the operations of a domestic carrier, Dana Air.

The minister cited concerns over the airline’s recurring incidents in the aviation industry for the action.

Wednesday’s sanction was the third in 12 years as the airline in 2012 and 2022 had its operating licences suspended for safety-related infractions.

…Latest sanction

A Dana Air’s flight 9J0352 with registration 5N-BKI had an excursion incident of one of its aircraft on the runway 18L/36R of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos on Tuesday morning.

However, none of the 83 passengers and crew members onboard  was hurt.

In clear terms, the airline veered off and overshot the runway, thus causing some moments of anxiety among the passengers and some members of the public.

But moment after the minister’s directive was made public; stakeholders took to various social media platforms in the industry to express their displeasures over what many described as the ministry’s overt interference in the independence of the regulatory functions of agencies in the aviation sector.

The minister’s formal directive marked (PS/FMA/MA/S121/Vol.1/99) and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, said the minister’s attention was drawn to recent incidents involving Dana Airline and said it had raised serious concerns regarding both the safety and financial viability of their operations.

Hours later after the directive, the NCAA via a letter NCAA/ DGCA/DANA/ 1/ 24/001, addressed to the Accountable Manager, Dana Airlines Limited, the agency notified the airline of it suspension.

…Minister’s directive

The minister’s directive stated: “As the supervisor overseeing our nation’s aviation safety and regulatory compliance, it has come to the Honourable Minister’s attention that recent incidents involving DANA AIRLINE have raised serious concerns regarding both the safety and financial viability of their operations.

“In light of these incidents and with the paramount priority being the safety and well-being of our citizens and travellers, the Honourable Minister has directed that you immediately initiate the suspension of Dana Airline’s fleet until a comprehensive audit can be conducted. This audit should encompass all aspects of safety protocols, maintenance procedures, and financial health to ensure full compliance with our aviation regulations.”

It said: “The recent incidents have underscored the urgency of this matter, and it is imperative that swift and decisive action be taken to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders involved. I trust in your expertise and diligence in carrying out this audit thoroughly and expeditiously. Please keep me informed of the progress and any significant findings throughout this process.

“Your dedication to upholding the highest standards of aviation safety is deeply appreciated and please, accept the assurances of the Honourable Minister’s best wishes.”


And the NCAA’s suspension notice to Dana Airlines stated thus: “As à precautionary step, and in accordance with Sec 31 (7) of the Civil Aviation Act 2022, the Authority has imposed a suspension on your Air Operator Certificate (AOC) with effect from 24th April, 2024 at 23:59 to allow for a thorough safety and economic audit.

“The safety audit will entail a re-inspection of your organization, procedures, personnel and aircraft as specified by Part of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, while the economic audit will critically examine the financial health of your airline to guarantee its capability to sustain safe flight operations.”

The Acting DG, Civil Aviation, Captain Chris Najomo, who signed the document, explained that “While the NSIB is conducting the safety investigation, the NCAA has initiated an in-house compliance assessment of this occurrence taking into account previous occurrences involving DANA Air aircraft.”

He said: “This is in a bid to establish any trend which must be nipped in the bud in the interest of the safety and well-being of our citizens and travellers.”

…Experts react

In a reaction via an interview with aviation correspondents Wednesday, an aviation security expert and former Commandant of the Nigeria Air Force at the Murtala Muhammad Airport, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd), said: “That is not the job of a Minister. What it means is that there is no confidence in the NCAA and the National Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB). He has taken over the job of the agencies, these are the things that are wrong, and the world is looking at us.

“He doesn’t have the authority. How can he suspend? Is the report out? Has he read the report? The International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, is watching and International Air Transport Association, IATA, is watching.”

Ojikutu added: “This minister is climbing the Aviation tree beyond its top leaves. Let those who are close to him tell him that he has no such powers and the International aviation community particularly ICAO is watching us and in particular the NCAA.

“I said it earlier that he has taken over not only as the minister but more as the CEO of all the agencies. The reports of the responsible agencies are yet to be out and he has already found the airline negligent. How? He has made both the NCAA and NISB irrelevant. This is another Institutional Corruption brewing out from the aviation Industry.”

Also speaking, a member of the Aviation Round Table Safety Initiatives, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, said: “This is gross interference. This is a man who, from the day he came in, promised not to interfere with safety, and this is a safety related issue. This is not right. It is the same mistake he made with the airport marketing. That should come from the NCAA, not him. It is playing to the gallery.”

..Dateline on infractions  

On June 3, 2012, the airline got sanctioned following the crash of its MD 83 MacDonnell plane which was en route Lagos from Abuja when it suffered a dual-engine failure as it was approaching Lagos. All the 153 people onboard and six other persons on ground were killed in a densely populated residential area of Iju-Ishaga on the border between Lagos and Ogun state. 

Ninety eight days after the disaster, the airline was cleared by the federal government and its suspension lifted a decision that was greeted by public outcry from the organised labour and some human rights lawyers, Olisa Agbakoba and Femi Falana, both Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

February 2018: It was yet another incident when one of the aircraft had its door off shortly after landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.

The said aircraft was taxiing on the runway when it emergency exit door carved away. 

The airline clarified that it was caused by a mechanical fault, affirming that there was no way the door could have fallen off “without a conscious effort by a passenger to open it.”

Also in the same month, another of its aircraft skidded off the runway of the Port Harcourt International Airport while landing at 7.30 pm. One  of the aircraft’s wings was damaged. 

May 2022: About 50 passengers of a Dana aircraft were rescued when fire incident affected the tyres of its aircraft again at the Port Harcourt airport. 

The NCAA grounded the airline’s operations over the incident pending conclusions of its investigations.

The management said “the impact on the brakes as a result of the aborted takeoff affected the aircraft tyres which sparked off while the aircraft was taxing to repark. All 50 passengers onboard the aircraft disembarked safely….”

July 2022: The airline also had one its aircraft- Boeing 737 aircraft with registration number — 5N DNA- making an emergency landing at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.

The NCAA suspended the airline’s operating licences after “discovering that the airline is no longer in a position to meet its financial obligations and to conduct safe flight operations.

The suspension was lifted 4 months after, precisely November 9, 2022.

About Suleiman Idris, Lagos and Adeola Akinbobola, Abuja

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