It was one of those rainy days in Lagos, on my way from Computer Village in Ikeja; I got on board a commercial bus – the ones we call Danfo in popular parlance. The bus conductor, who is by default a member of the newly inaugurated Bus Conductors Association of Nigeria (BCAN), was rigorously screaming Obalende Obalende asked that I take the front seat; but I objected because of the fuji music the driver was blaring. In a bid to avoid other passengers telling me “Oga abeg shift” I decided to sit close to the door. I thought sitting close to the window would also afford me some fresh air. At the time I got on the bus the skies were already dark signalling an imminent downpour. I did not forget that the worst thing that could happen to anyone Lagos is to be caught outside your home when there is a downpour and especially when you are not driving your personal car. Alas, on our way, I noticed that the driver fated himself to moving slowly; the bus was probably moving at between 40-50km ph. When passengers got tired and collaborated in hailing insults on the man, he changed his mind and the bus started moving reasonably faster. Not long into the journey, on 3rd Mainland Bridge, the door fell and by this time the downpour had begun. Then the driver said “sebi mo so fun yin” meaning did I not tell you? Apparently, he chose to drive slowly in order to prevent the door from falling off. Long story short, the door could not be fixed; the bus conductor had to put it on the bus and held it while the journey lasted. By the time I got home, I was drenched.
My experience is not a rare one for those who are regular patrons of commercial vehicles in Lagos. Many times these vehicles move about with ominous faults that are not lost on the drivers. Yet they get on the road and risk human lives all for the sake of money. Many innocent individuals have lost their lives due to this act of wickedness by commercial bus drivers. As much as it is unforgivable for people to toy with human lives in this manner, it is slightly understandable for commercial bus drivers to behave in this way considering that many of them are not broadly educated, and the business does not have far-reaching regulations and monitoring. On the other when the same reckless behaviour occurs in the aviation sector, then there is a serious reason to be scared. On 7th February, 2018, it was first reported on social media of how the emergency door of an aircraft belonging to Dana Air fell off just when it landed. The lady who goes by the name Ola Brown wrote: “Flew Dana. Exit door was unstable throughout flight. As we touched down, it fell off. Scary stuff.” The management of the company has debunked the report that the door was unstable, claiming that someone must have pushed the door for it fall off. The spokesman, Mr. Kingsley Ezenwa said “We wish to state categorically that this could never have happened without a conscious effort by a passenger to open it (exit door).” With this statement the company clearly introduced a new twist to the unfortunate incident. Whilst there are no immediate evidences to counter the claim by Mr Ezenwa some questions are pertinent here. Firstly, why would any passenger want to open the exit door? Why would the passenger do that when the plane was already landing? Why is there no one to corroborate the claim that a passenger attempted to open the door when there are other witnesses that claim the door fell off without a trigger from any passenger? These are unanswered questions that clearly negate the claim by the airline.
It is elating that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has commenced investigation into the incident to ascertain what actually happened. Nevertheless, it will be highly beneficial for the findings of the committee to be made open. Similar investigations have been conducted in the past with no tangible result. This further advocates the need for the authority to consider the installation of surveillance video cameras in our aircrafts. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, installation of surveillance cameras has been embraced by many international airlines. It may appear expensive for local airlines who are struggling to survive the harsh business environment. However, it is better to have a system that checks the excesses of passengers or the negligence of operators, and promotes the security of travellers. Beyond the investigation, the most pertinent issue here is the need to prevent a reoccurrence of this ugly incident. Whether a passenger pushed the door open or the door was faulty, the event is a major indictment on the safety standards of our aviation industry. The state of many local aircrafts and the palpable deterioration in our airports makes one wonder if we truly have a regulator at all. We need to wake up and turn a new leaf. We are dealing with human lives here.