What Future For Accident Investigation?

What Future For Accident Investigation?

The immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), Engr. Akin Olateru while handing over to the new DG, Alex Badeh, jnr recanted how tough his assignment was.

He disclosed that in the course of doing the job, he lost his marriage and also got death threats many times.

Olateru said, “This is a journey we started January 17, 2017, it’s been a long walk but one thing I can say is to give Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, all the glory. It was a tough one. We went through so much. I personally went through so much because this job is not an easy one. So I don’t envy you (the new DG). To people that didn’t know, I lost my marriage in the course of work. I received death threats many times because I was trying to do the right thing. That is why it is very important to thank God for this journey.”

While not dabbling into the private affair of the former DG, the comment about getting death threats was discernible given the sensitivity of the position and the vested interests and parties involved in accident investigations.

The NSIB formerly Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) was in charge of investigation of accidents and incidents in air transportation. From air returns to crash-landing, tyre bursts and actual accidents in the air transportation sub-sector, the AIB was charged with providing accurate report detailing the causal factors, the contributory factors and appropriate recommendations.

And the bottom line after the recommendations is the need to prevent future reoccurrence. This is basically what the job of AIB now NSIB entails. This is why the bureau has repeatedly said the job of accident investigation is not for fault-finding, neither is it an exercise for blame-game more so when the bureau has no power of prosecution. Its task is to find out why an accident or incident occurred and what must be done to ensure such does not reoccur.

In carrying out its investigation, the manufacturers of the aircraft and its components, the regulatory agency which is the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in the case of Nigeria, the airline involved and the service provider – the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) or the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) as the case maybe are often involved in the investigation.

This is what AIB has occupied itself with in the last five years, ensuring that reports are churned out as and when due in order to enhance safety of the industry which is guaranteed by implementing the recommendations of the bureau by appropriate agencies and authorities.

The AIB which was before a department in the Ministry was established in 2016 through Section 29 of the Civil Aviation Act, 2006. It was charged with the responsibility to investigate any air accident and serious incident arising out of, or in the course of air navigation and occurring either in or over Nigeria or occurring to Nigerian aircraft elsewhere.

The bureau has now transmuted into a multimodal transportation investigation body to cover all modes of transportation with the NSIB Act of establishment, NSIB Act 2022, replacing the establishment Act of the AIB under the Civil Aviation Act 2006.

The appointment of Olateru in 2017 was adjudged in the industry to have breathed life into the hitherto quiet body even though its existence is critical to continued safety of air transportation. This is achieved through timely release of accident reports to prevent recurrence.

According to the bureau, “the fundamental objective of NSIB is to improve transportation safety by determining the circumstances and causes of transportation accidents and serious incidents, and providing safety recommendations intended to prevent recurrence of similar accidents. The purpose of this is not to apportion blame or liability.”

And every report is not only far-reaching but comes with recommendations for the parties to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

Since the inception of the bureau in 2012, only 15 final reports were released but when Olateru took over as the bureau’s chief executive officer, 67 final reports were released. These covered the period of January 2017 till December 2023 when he was removed as the DG in a sweeping reorganization of aviation agencies by the Federal Government.

Also 81 safety recommendations were released from inception of AIB to December 2016 but from January 2017 to date, 191 safety recommendations were released even as the bureau successfully published three safety bulletins which never happened in the life of the bureau until the former DG took over.

On Wednesday December 13, 2023, a presidential statement issued by Chief Ajuri Nglale indicated that President Muhammadu Buhari has sacked all heads of the six aviation agencies under the Ministry of Aviation including the NSIB DG, putting an end to the reign of Olateru in the investigation agency which now has an expanded mandate to also investigate incidents and accidents in other modes of transportation.

Though he put in much energy to actualize the multimodal investigation agency which changed his nomenclature from Commissioner of AIB to Director-General, he did not complete the tenure before he was removed. He also did not get the opportunity to successfully probe and release reports in other accidents outside aviation.

It would be recalled that the NSIB took over the investigation of the train accident which happened in March 2023, killing 10 people and injuring over 80 people. Similarly, the bureau has taken over the investigation of boat mishap that claimed 106 people in Kpada community in Patigi Local Government Area of Kwara State.

With Alex Badeh, jnr taking over as his successor, he is undoubtedly putting on a big shoe requiring greater hard-work to making an impact and ultimately deepening safety of all modes of transportation. With the AIB’s metamorphosis to NSIB, stakeholders anticipate the successes recorded under AIB which has contributed to the strengthening of aviation safety to be replicated in other modes of transportation especially accidents on the nation’s waterways which has become an hydra-headed monster scaring people away from water transportation.

That is why the new DG has been tasked to tighten his belt because the responsibilities before him are not only enormous but daunting.

Olateru during the handover however said cooperation and teamwork is the ingredient needed by the new DG to succeed.

“We need to work as a team to succeed. You need all that cooperation to work as a team, as a family. Nobody is perfect, I am not perfect. Please work with him with the same spirit you have worked with me and I believe he would prioritise all staff issues.”

Olateru stated that he is leaving NSIB better than he met it and he is leaving as a happy man.

“Some people got government’s job, they ended up in jail. Some people got government’s job, they ended up in a mortuary. I am here standing and I am happy I am leaving NSIB far, far better than I met it. I used the position to grow people, to build the institution, to give Nigeria a better name.”

However, the new DG is not oblivious of the challenges before him. As a pilot and a player in the industry he stated that the Bureau under his administration, will not simply react to transportation accidents, but proactively prevent them from occurring.

“We will harness the power of data, technology, and human ingenuity to build a future where every journey is undertaken with peace of mind, every mile traversed with the assurance of a safe return,” he said.

Alex Badeh Jr. is a seasoned and accomplished aviation professional, with over 6000 flight hours as both Captain and First Officer, operating domestically and internationally.

He attended University of Wolverhampton, England, where he obtained a degree in Biological Sciences, laying the groundwork for a stellar career in the skies and his future aspirations.

Aviation analyst and former General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye said, “With the expansion initiated by the immediate Past Director General, it is expected that NSIB could do well if funded properly as an agency saddled with more responsibilities and given the huge challenges within the multimodal structure it covers. The change of baton came as a shock to me personally even though the immediate Past Minister never allowed these CEOs to breathe and given the fact that NSIB was a new baby, birthed by the Engineer, I thought he would be allowed to test his skills in a wider field having succeeded in Aviation.

“But government being what it is and particularly our way of playing politics in Nigeria, anything goes. I look forward to seeing the new DG excel far beyond what has been recorded in Aviation and we shall give the needed support for him to succeed.”

National Secretary of Society of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers of Nigeria, SLAMEN, Engr. Sheri Kyari said, “I will think that the NSIB should continue to be effective if the outgone DG was able to groom individuals and the system to continue running effectively and efficiently.

“Secondly, the various Directors should be able to drive their directorates to achieve excellence and remain relevant at providing the needed service to the various sectors of the economy.”

Group Capt. John Ojikutu, rtd, on his part said while the multimodal agency was an idea muted by the Ministry of Aviation under Sirika, other agencies outside aviation must key in their existing investigation programmes into the establishment statues of the NSIB.

“There will be a need for integrating the manpower training and equipment,” he added.

As Badeh assumes the leadership, the time begins to tick and the number of reports released would provide the framework for a proper assessment of his leadership in months to come. Certainly the bureau’s role is key to safety of all modes of transportation.




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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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