By Chinedu Eze
The federal government has said it is pushing for the amendment of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Act in order to merge accident investigation in maritime, railway and aviation sectors.
This is aimed at improving the safety in air, rail and water transport and also to raise the standard of accident investigation in the two other sectors as it is currently with air transport.
The Commissioner and CEO OF AIB, Akin Olateru, told THISDAY in a telephone interview yesterday that the objective of the multi-modal accident investigation bureau was to reduce the number of deaths in the transportation system in rail and water transportation system, just as it has been reduced in air transport.
Olateru likened accident investigation personnel to undertakers who carry out post-mortem after an accident or death has occurred and prescribe ways more deaths could be prevented in the transport system.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is like a doctor who tells you what to do so that you will not get sick and die, but when you die we come in and find out the cause of death and recommend actions that should be taken in order to prevent more deaths,” he stated.
Olateru said the merger would also enhance data collection, noting that while AIB has records of the number of deaths and accidents in air transport, nobody knows the number of people who die through water transportation.
“So, it would help to gather data and statistics because if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.
“We know how many people that have died in the last five years in air transport but we do not have any data on those who died while travelling by boat on the waters in the country.
“So having such investigation body for multimodal transportation system gives people the confidence to travel, knowing that things are being monitored and this would boost patronage to service providers and in turn increase the GDP from the sector.
“From August last year to January this year, about 2,700 died on road accident. No action has been taken on how to prevent such high number of deaths on our roads, but if there a body that monitors and investigates these deaths, it would, for example, recommend ways to prevent such deaths. Besides, having such a body shows that Nigeria is a serious country and it will earn respect in the comity of nations,” Olateru added.
Olateru had last week made a presentation on the proposal before the Senate Committee on Aviation
He had told the committee that the amended Act would provide benefits to Nigeria, which include an effective legal and institutional framework for the regulation and administration of safety of transportation occurrences in Nigeria, as appropriate.
“The bill will cause prompt and quick investigation of accidents in the
proposed transport sectors; improve efficiency of all the service providers; create a much safer environment.
“There will be reduction in number of deaths, injuries and material losses; effective management system; facilitation of collaboration and cooperation; comprehensive planning and human capacity development.
“There will also be cost reduction and management. There will be improvement on infrastructure, facilities and equipment; creation of job opportunities; and enhancement of mutual beneficial relationship between the various agencies,” Olateru had said.
According to him, it is widely accepted that multimodality is the future of transport accident investigation and the transition has always been made from the extant air accident investigation agency and in Nigeria, it is the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB-N).
“It has therefore become expedient that the provision of Section 29 of the Civil Aviation Act (CAA) be reviewed to establish the Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NISB) in a separate Act to bring up on speed with contemporary global best practice in the industry, to create a multi modal bureau for investigation of air, rail way and maritime accidents.
“To ensure transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in this pursuit, there is a need to create a unified body which is completely independent (in its organisation, operation and decision making processes) from the transport operators, policy makers, regulators and other parties whose interests may conflict with the tasks which organisation is entrusted with.
“As a global standard, every jurisdiction is tuning to having its respective modes of transportation have three key aspects – the regulator, service provider and investigators.
“The purpose of the NSIB is to enable the segregation of investigative activities and promote safety through the conduct of transparent, independent and objective investigations in all cases of accidents and incidents involving any of the current modes of transportation in Nigeria,” he said.
Olateru explained that the primary purpose of accident investigation is to discover the cause of the accident, remarking that once identified, the cause can be addressed, eliminated or controlled in a bid to forestall a reoccurrence.
“Improvement in quality of care follows a comprehensive accident investigation that reveals the root cause and yields recommendation for improvements,” he stated.
The commissioner said during the investigation process, all facts are collected, analysed and written down in a public report, adding that the most important part of the report is the safety recommendations.
If the measures suggested in the safety recommendations are carried out, similar accidents can be avoided in the future, or at least their consequences can be minimised, he said.
“In Nigeria, the main modes of transportation are road and air. However, recent developments have shown the development of (and return to) railways, and an increase in the use of our inland waterways, as alternate methods of transportation.
“Air transportation is the only mode of transportation in Nigeria, which benefits from totally independent and internationally accredited accident investigations, conducted through the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB-N).
“Presently, NIMASA (the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) are respectively responsible for regulating and investigating their occurrences (accident/incident),” Olateru said.