Scene of Dana Air Crash
By Bunmi Awoyemi
In conjunction with our partners in the United States, we have filed a mass tort law suit against the parties responsible for the crash. Dana Air and its insurers, Prestige Assurance PLC and Lloyds of London have retained the law firm of Yomi Osikoya & Co. to help them process claims and interim compensation to victims of the Dana crash.
You will recall from our past press conferences that we highlighted the enabling law, which is the pivot upon which our letter to the Senate committee and House committee on aviation rests. Section 48 (3) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act provides: “In any case of aircraft accident resulting in death or injury of passengers, the carrier shall make advance payments of at least US $30,000 (Thirty Thousand United States Dollars) within 30 (thirty) days from the date of such accident, to the natural person or such natural persons who are entitled to claim compensation in order to meet the immediate economic needs of such persons and such advance payments shall not constitute recognition of liability and may be offset against any amounts subsequently paid as damages by the carrier.”
Consequently, Dana Airlines is mandated to pay $30,000 within the stipulated time of 30 days. Unfortunately, most of the families of the victims are yet to be paid the $30,000 a year after the air crash. Out of our 40 clients, for example, only 14 clients have received the interim payment while 26 remain unpaid. This conflicts with the express provisions of the Civil Aviation Act, which clearly states that interim compensation should be paid within 30 days of the plane crash.
The airline and its representatives have come up with a number of excuses as the reason they have not paid this mandatory $30,000. These excuses include: 1. Insufficient documentation; 2. Multiple claims; and 3. Multiple representations.
Insufficient documentation: One of our clients who had submitted all required documentation since November last year did not receive payments until the first week of May 2013 because the payment was put on hold for no justifiable reason.
Multiple claims: A particular family that got paid recently had their payment withheld on the grounds of multiple claims, even though key members of the family had jointly requested for compensation. The key members are the father and husband of a deceased family member who also double as the grandfather and father to another very young deceased family member. This family had to resubmit documents they already had twice and insisted that all the siblings and all the aunties of the deceased as well as the mother and grandmother to the deceased had to sign the compensation forms.
We have received reports from some clients about Dana Air’s attempts to engineer divisions among family members of some victims in other to get them to withdraw their US law suit. In fact, one of our clients was told categorically to his face that the reason she had not been paid is the law suit that was filed in the United States and that if she withdraws from the lawsuit she will get paid immediately.
Multiple Representation: In a number of cases the airline’s representatives claimed that some of our clients had multiple legal representation, even when they had more than enough documentation pointing to the fact that our clients had retained us.
In cases of multiple deaths in one family, Dana Air have insisted that they will not pay more than $30,000 per family instead of $30,000 per victim as required in section 48 (3) of the Civil Aviation Act. For instance, regarding a particular family who lost several members of their family in the crash, the airline wrote us through their representatives to propose an interim payment of $30,000 for their entire loss, and mandating that we prove that the family was entitled to more than that amount as interim payment.
This is not only condemnable but inappropriate. This is just one example of the manner in which Dana Air and their representatives are handling the issue of compensation. Dana Air’s spokesperson recently issued a press release claiming that 95 people had received the interim payments. Nothing could be further from the truth. What they are doing is engaging in double counting.
For example, where a family of 3 is paid $30,000 as interim payment instead of the mandatory $90,000 they will put in their records that they have paid off those 3 victims, whereas they only paid for one person. This is clearly misleading and deceptive.
Sometime in November 2012, the airline stated that if anyone submitted letters of administration it would eliminate the need to submit the laundry list of documentation they request for since the names of the administrators would have been identified in the letters of administration. As of today, not less than 25 of our clients have submitted letters of administration to the representatives of Dana Air, but unfortunately, the airline has not lived up to its promise. They received the letters of administration and still stalled on the payment of the mandatory $30,000 per victim as interim payment.
Apart from this Dana Air has refused to make interim payments to four of our clients who are ground victims, denying that they died on the ground even though they admit that 10 people died on the ground. The local lawyer of these four ground victims, Barrister Gbenga Eguntola has made frantic efforts to get the interim payments for them to no avail even though he has submitted a laundry list of documents that prove these clients died on the ground.
In fact, the brother-in-law of one of our clients, late Nwabuwa Okafor with whom he lived until his death at Iju Ishaga was approached with monetary inducements by Dana Air’s representatives asking him to deny that late Nwabuwa Okafor lived in the same apartment with him and died as a result of the crash. But he turned them down.
These are the major reasons victims’ family members in several press releases through us condemned the premature restoration of Dana Air’s operating license by the aviation authorities. In addition, the Ministry of Aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) acted against the resolutions of both houses of the National Assembly endorsing the report of the Joint Aviation Committee of both houses, which recommended among other things, the termination of Dana Air’s operating license.
Furthermore, the causes of the June 3rd 2012 crash are yet to be addressed and rectified. These families therefore collectively opine that the basis of Dana Air’s operating license restoration is baseless.
· Awoyemi is the lawyer representing the families of 40 wrongful death victims of the Dana crash of June 3, 2012