Nigeria seeks foreign assistance to avert air crashes

  Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- Following a spate of air disasters in the country recently, the Nigerian government is seeking the assistance of foreign experts to inspect all aircraft in the country, local press reports said Thursday.
   The reports quoted Aviation Minister Kema Chikwe as saying the experts, who are expected to arrive in the country in the next two weeks, would help ascertain the airworthiness of planes as well as the eligibility of airline operators.
   "The foreign experts will look at every aircraft in the country, its place of procurement and country of origin to see if they were actually operating in their countries of origin," Chikwe said.
   The decision came on the heels of the crash of a Yugoslav-made LET 410 plane operated by the private Sky Executive Airlines at a swamp in the southeastern state of Akwa Ibom on Wednesday.
   The crash of the 17-seater plane, in which all five crew members on board were killed, is the third air mishap in the country in as many weeks.
   It was the second fatal crash in the country since 4 May, when a BAC 1-11 plane owned by the private EAS airlines crashed shortly after take-off in the northern city of Kano, killing 148 people.
   The accidents have raised serious concerns about the state of the country's aviation sector, where most of the dozen private airlines that sprang up after the deregulation of the sector in the mid-1980s are said to be using old and obsolete planes.
   Following the Kano air crash, the Aviation Ministry suspended the use of BAC 1-11 planes from the country's airspace, reinforced its earlier ban on aircraft that are older than 22 years and took measures to re-organise regulatory agencies under the ministry.
   But experts dismissed the measures as a mere whitewash on the myriad of problems in the sector.

23 may 2002 10:51:00

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