The Federal Government through the Accident Investigation Bureau is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the government of Saudi Arabia on accident investigation.

The MoU which is expected to be signed in September will enable Saudi Arabia to help in the training of Nigerian accident investigators.

The Commissioner, AIB, Mr Akin Olateru, gave the hint, adding that the Ministry of Justice had given clearance for the MoU to be signed.

According to him, Saudi Arabia has some expertise that the bureau can tap into.

Olateru made this known during a training programme supported by the United States National Transportation Safety Board under Safe Skies for Africa Initiative.

He said, “When I came in 2017, the AIB was poorly funded and was at its lowest ebb, performing below 35 per cent. I had to work on our beliefs, values and human capital, part of which was training as well as moving from individualistic way of doing things to working as a group.

“Currently, we have nations signing MoU with Nigeria. We have signed with France, Republic of Benin and Sao Tome and Principe. In the next one month, we will be signing with Saudi Arabia; Gabon is ongoing.

“It is not everything you will see on the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder during investigation. So, the training will make our accident investigation much better because each country has its own benefits.”

Olateru had earlier announced the bureau’s plan to begin marine, rail and road transport accident investigations.

According to him, in preparation for the proposed change, the agency in the last one year has sent 30 of its investigators to Cranfield University in the United Kingdom to train in multimodal accident investigation.

He said the essence of such investigations was to come up with recommendations that could reduce accidents.

He said, “Since I came into office in 2017, the AIB has released 58 per cent of the total number of accident reports done since the agency was created in 2007.

“If those reports are not released, you are doing a disservice to the industry because there will be no lessons to learn. When there is a road accident, for instance, due to a ditch on the road, then we will issue a safety recommendation to the Federal Road Maintenance Agency as well as the ministry in charge to fix it.”

Olateru said the agency would continue to invest in human capital development, which it had been doing with the support of the US NTSB.

Meanwhile, the US has said it will no longer sponsor the Safe Skies for Africa Initiative, established over 20 years ago.

Olateru, who confirmed this, said no reason was given for the decision to end the programme which aimed to improve safety and security in aviation on the African continent.

He, however, stated that the African Development Bank might be approached to sponsor the programme.

He said, “Today comes the end of our programme where we brought in African nations to join us in aviation safety programme sponsored by AIB in conjunction with Safe Skies Africa, which is under the Department of Transportation and the NTSB.

“The US government will no longer sponsor the safe skies programme. It is very unfortunate. Africa has really benefited from this programme and I think we (Africans) should put heads together on how we can help ourselves. We hope African Development Bank under its Corporate Social Responsibility can take up this programme to help Africans. When an airplane goes down, it does not distinguish nations.”

He said the decision by the US government to end the programme also called for team work among African countries to make the skies safer.(Punch)

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