Dana Crash Latest: Inquest suspended indefinitely

The Coroner’s inquest into the cause of June 3 Dana Air crash in Lagos has been suspended and postponed indefinitely, following a suit challenging the coroner’s jurisdiction.

The coroner’s jurisdiction in the matter is being questioned by a group, ‘Civil Aviation Round Table Initiative’, in a suit filed before the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Headed by a retired pilot, Dele Ore, the group stated that the Lagos State Coroners’ System Law does not cover the investigation of deaths arising from aircraft accidents.

Ore urged the court to declare the State Coroners’ Law inapplicable to aviation accident and deaths.

He accused the coroner of delving into technical issues relating to the crash and prayed the court to stop the proceedings of the inquest and the nullify steps taken by the coroner to invite witnesses to testify or give evidence.

"He has also scheduled appointment to visit the Control Tower at the Murtala Mohammed Airport to see how the Air Traffic Controllers carry out their duties," he said, adding that the coroner had also wrongfully ordered the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to produce the crashed plane's Black Box and Technical Log Book.

According to him, investigation into such technical issues should be better left to “the experts in aviation technology that apply scientific investigation techniques that can ascertain the probable or exact cause of each air crash.”

The group president also described the coroner’s inquest as “unconstitutional” due to the country’s ratification and domestication of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Chicago 1944 Act.

However, the state government has urged the court to dismiss the order for injunction, claiming that the coroner has the power to investigate the cause of death, and the identity, place of death, and the manner of death of victims of aircraft accidents.

In her counter-affidavit, a senior counsel in the State Attorney General's office, Olawunmi Osibanjo, stated that the group filing the suit lacked constitutional role, as it was not created by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority.

“The coroner has received evidence from witnesses relating only to the circumstance of death of the victims of the Dana crash and not the technical issues of the operations of the aircraft," she added.

Jointly included as respondents in the suit to be heard by Justice Okon Abang on September 6, 2012, were: the coroner, Oyetade Komolafe; the State Chief Judge; the Attorneys General of the State and the Federation; the Federal Ministry of Aviation; Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority; Dana Air Lines; among others.