By Tope Templer Olaiya
IT’S over seven months since the quiet Iju-Ishaga community of Lagos lost its serenity after it was robbed of peace by the cruel angel of death. Thankfully, its former state has been restored and the shock of the disaster is wearing off.
For residents of the area, particularly those on Olaniyi Street, where the Dana Air Flight 0992 crashed into, last week’s resumption of flights by Dana Air has brought to fore gory memories of June 3, 2012, the black Sunday afternoon, when in a moment, their places of abode became a crash site, and hours later, turned into a tourist spot, attracting citizens and dignitaries alike.
While the incident has been reduced on one hand to bickering between the National Assembly and aviation authorities on the restoration of Dana’s operating license, and on the other hand between the airline and families of victims over compensation, the crash site has been left to waste.
The bare space of land measuring about 10 plots has been cleared of plane fragments, building debris and burnt bodies, where a six-storey building, warehouse and a publishing firm once stood. But as the clock gradually ticks towards the first anniversary of the crash, residents eagerly awaits the fulfillment of promises made in the wake of the incident to the community.
Owner of the six-storey building and publishing firm, Daniel Oluranti, has instituted legal action against the carrier, same for the community through the Akande Community Development Association (CDA). Oluranti is claiming N500 million for building structure consisting of a six bedroom duplex with penthouse, four bedroom bungalow with two large sitting rooms, two standard warehouse and four fish ponds valued at N172,530,960.
Others are factory equipment, plants, machines valued at N15,380,000; electronics/appliances worth N4,527,000; livestock fish in the pond costing N2,025,000; kitchen utensils and many other valuables estimated at N40 million, which were all lost to the air tragedy.
He explained that after the delivery of his letter of claim dated June 20, 2012, the representative of Dana Airlines got in touch with him and requested for a meeting. “The meeting was held at my solicitor’s office where the airline’s representative offered me N500,000 as a temporary relief.
“I felt insulted by this high level of insensitivity on the part of the airline and I questioned how the N500,000 offered me will address the inconveniences and torture my family have been subjected to. Naturally, I rejected the offer.” Oluranti disclosed that since the incident, his family has been surviving purely on the grace of God and assistance from friends and the church.
Chairman of Akande CDA, Mr. Adewale Oriowo, told The Guardian that the community had engaged the services of a lawyer to negotiate compensation on behalf of the community, particularly those who lost properties. “Up till now, nothing has happened. We have not heard anything from Dana and we are not captured in their compensation scheme.
“The only concluded case we followed up was the children taken away by Governor Fashola, as they have been handed over to a family member. The Deputy Governor called sometime last year to inform me that a Major General came forward as a family member and the children have been handed over to him.
“At the moment, the community needs to be reimbursed for the money we spent to make the area conducive to the throng of visitors who trooped here immediately after the crash. Many of the access roads to the site were not motorable and we immediately had to mobilise for it to be graded so that emergency agencies such as LASEMA, NEMA and Red Cross, can carry out their rescue operations effectively.
“Up till now, the bill has not been refunded. However, we heard from the media that some roads in this area have been marked for reconstruction, which we hope would be captured in the 2013 budget. The governor also promised a cenotaph in memory of those who died, but we have high expectations that before the first year anniversary in June, most of the demands by the community would have been met. We have, however, not heard a word from the airline,” he said.
There are ongoing concerns about the fate of Oluranti, who among other things wants to reclaim his land. This is a subject of controversy as the crash site has been taken over by the state with plans to immortalize the victims with a mausoleum.
Paul Anozie of No. 5 Okusanya Street, Iju Ishaga, recalled how his building was saved by a tree planted in front of his house. “In all things, we have to thank God for life though nothing has been given to those whose properties are destroyed. I know this because I am a casualty.
“My fence and gate was razed down but for the mango tree, it could have been more. The right wing of the aeroplane was caught in the tree. The wing was cut off while the plane veered off and crashed into the building on Olaniyi Street. They said they would come and we waited for weeks without seeing anybody.
“I can’t keep waiting for them while my house remains exposed. I spent over N300,000 to erect a new fence and gate. The only thing government did here was to erect concrete electric poles to replace the wooden ones brought down by the plane. We were also lucky there was no electricity at the time of the incident.”
According to company sources, the airline has paid a 30 per cent part compensation of N4.95 million ($30,000) each to 90 of the 153 vicims of the ill-fated plane crash, with a promise to redeem the 70 percent balance of N11.55 million ($70,000) each as soon as possible.
“The crash was a very shocking incident for us. We have visited every family that was affected in the crash. Of the 153 victims’ family, only 125 submitted back information for the processing of their insurance claims. So far 90 families have received their 30 per cent interim payment. The insurance companies are still processing the remaining 35 victims’ claims,” Mbanuzor Obialor, Head, Commercial of Dana Air, said.