Posted by By Emmanuel Aziken & Ben Agande on
THE National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday that the Bellview Flight 210 that crashed into Lisa village in Ifo, Ogun State last weekend could not be traced because it lacked the detector beacon that sends distress signals in emergencies.
ABUJA —THE National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday that the Bellview Flight 210 that crashed into Lisa village in Ifo, Ogun State last weekend could not be traced because it lacked the detector beacon that sends distress signals in emergencies.
NEMA officials at a press conference in Abuja said a lot of Nigerian airlines lacked the 406 Mhz beacon that helps trace distressed aircraft and ships over a five-kilometre radius. According to the officials, a workshop to sensitise the airlines on the use of the beacons two weeks ago was attended by only two airlines, Aero Contractors and Pan African Airlines.
NEMA Director-General, Alhaji Salihu Makarfi, who led his officials at the briefing said most disasters in Nigeria were man-made, and stressed the need to further educate the citizenry and major stakeholders on their roles in disaster prevention and response. He lamented that the absence of an effective disaster response system hindered NEMA from getting the information of the Bellview Flight 210 crash on time.
Group Captain Ernest Kanwai, Director, Search and Rescue and Mr. Kayode Fagbemi, Head, Nigerian Mission Control Centre, responded to questions on NEMA’s response to the disaster. "It was at about 10.30 p.m. (Saturday) that a call came to Director, Search and Rescue who then called me. When I got to the MCC, I met him (director, search and rescue) but we did not get any alert within Nigeria and if we do not get any alert, there is no way we could indicate the location of the aircraft."We saw three alerts, two on the hinterland and one on the maritime, and we gave these three alerts to NAMA (National Airspace Management Agency) and NMA (National Maritime Authority)," Mr. Fagbemi said.
He said the three alerts were non descriptive, noting that had the Bellview flight had the 406 Mhz beacon, it would have pointed out the location of the crashed airliner. Group Captain Kenwai said NEMA could not begin a helicopter search for the aircraft until the following morning because helicopters in the country including the one recently purchased by NEMA were not equipped with night vision facilities.
Besides, he added that the absence of the beacon compelled NEMA to trace the route of Flight 210, a situation that led it to first search out Kishi area in Kwara State from where they claimed a false alert had emanated.
NEMA had written a letter to all airlines on September 13, 2005, informing them of the need to upgrade the beacons on their aircraft. The letter signed by NEMA director general read in part: "The Nigerian Cospas-Sarsat Mission Control Centre equipment domiciled at the agency’s headquarters has the capacity to aid Search and Rescue on receipt of distress alert signal from aircraft and vessels that posses the radio beacons operating on the 121.5/243 MHz and 406 MHz. However, the equipment has not been adequately utilised because many beacon users are not aware of it while some others misuse their beacons, thereby causing false alert which often leads to waste of vital resources and time on search and rescue."