Fashola Unveils Cenotaph In Honour of 157 Dana Air Crash Victims
…Family members of victims commend LASG, as Governor urges priority of safety over profit on the part of decision makers
Jun 3, 2013 - At a solemn one- year memorial, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Monday unveiled a Cenotaph in honour of the 157 victims of the Dana Air crash in Iju, emphasizing that the watchword for decision making by those in authority must be safety and not profit.
The Governor who spoke before families and relatives of the victims at the site of the crash in Iju said it will not be enough to hope disasters will not happen again but would be more important for all those who have authority and responsibility to act with a preventive purpose to ensure that it does not happen.
To the families of the victims, the Governor said: "I know it will take a while for the tragic memories of your great losses to heal, but you must carry on, not just because you have to carry on but because your loved ones would want and expect you to".
According to the Governor, the obligation to save lives and protect property imposes a greater duty to which the present administration makes a solemn pledge to all Lagosians to discharge.
He explained that a year ago, the state managed a difficult situation as best as it could but that the loss of so many lives has further compelled her to examine and re-examine the way the state reacts to disasters.
"As a Government we have learnt some painful lessons and we have grown from them. We have now improved our response capacity, trained and continue to re-train our first responders, develop response protocols and acquired necessary equipment. We convened a Disaster and Emergency Management Summit for all the States in the South West, at which we shared our experience and information".
"The entire incident is properly documented for posterity, with copies in the Attorney General's Office and the Governor's Office, with details of what we did well and what we could have done better to avoid our past mistakes", he added.
The Governor stated that in as much as the tragedy has brought everyone together at the venue, the real tragedy that can befall the people would be to forget what happened restating that the state must never forget and will never forget.
"To all the family members who lost loved ones, we promised a year ago that we would fittingly honour all of them and today we move one small step closer towards immortalizing their memories".
"This Cenotaph which we are unveiling here today will ensure that their memories never die. This monument will stand as a permanent memorial to these family men, women and children, and we will cherish each of their stories-stories of potential and of fulfillment, stories of true heroes", Governor Fashola emphasized.
The Governor recalled that one year ago when the incident whose cause remain yet unknown happened, everyone in the state was crestfallen and resulted in many nations and their nationalities from India, China, the United States and Nigerian being united by a common grief.
"A year may seem like a long time, but for the families and friends of the men, women and children we lost, that day does not feel like history. The memories of that day are probably as fresh as they are painful: particularly today when you are forced to confront the thoughts you may have pushed to the innermost recesses of your minds, just to enable you get from one day to the next".
Empathizing with family members of the victims both on the flight and on the ground, Governor Fashola encouraged them to make a resolve to move on in spite of the deep pain. "What does one say at a time like this? What does one say when words will never be enough? Many of us cannot even begin to imagine how great your suffering must have been this last one year. We can only emphathize with you, in the vain hope that our empathy will bring some relief. We can only utter words we know will never fill the voids but which we nonetheless pray will bring some comfort.
"What I do know is that today, although our grief is deep and our sense of loss unquantifiable, our heads are not bowed. We are not crestfallen. Your undying spirit to continue and your presence here today is a sign of monumental courage. It is not courage without pain. No. it is courage defined by dignity and resolve to get on with life in spite of the pain", the Governor reiterated.
The Governor also went through the touching stories of some of the victims including the Okuchukwu family who did not fly but also shared in the pain as the father had innocently sent out the three eldest children on errands before the Dana flight came descending on their building, consuming the father, the mother and their youngest child.
Governor Fashola said he met the three children at the site on 4th June and his path and that of the children have remained intertwined since then with the three children who have become a lifetime commitment for him and his wife to ensure that their promise is fulfilled.
He also recalled the case of Tosin Anibaba who worked at FATE Foundation, Dunni Doherty who was a teacher at the Lagos Preparatory School, Eke Chijokie, one of the crew members who was originally not supposed to be on the flight but relieved a sick colleague as well as Vivian Effiong who was also a dedicated crew member.
"The story of the Anyene family is one that will live long in the memory. All of six of them perished in the crash. Maimuna, the wife and mother of 4 beautiful children-Kamisiyonna(3), Kainetochi (2) and Kobichime(five months) was a graduate of the University of Ibadan before she moved to the United States. Sisters, Josephine and Jennifer Onita were also just visiting Nigeria for a friend's wedding", he explained.
Governor Fashola said as the victims are being remembered, the state must also reach out to their survivors and salute their tenacity and courage noting the case of Dr Anyene who had the biggest personal loss.
He recalled that in his meetings with the bereaved families, Dr Anyene showed courage and strength that is uncommon adding that he seemingly forgot about his own personal loss and joined the government side in consoling and calming others as if his own loss did not matter.
The Lagos State Governor also gave kudos to first responders like the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Fire Service, the Police, Ministry of Health and the State Chief Pathologist and Vice -Chancellor of Lagos State University, Professor John Obafunwa and his colleagues who performed all the autopsies as well as spiritual leaders who rose to join efforts in consoling the bereaved.
In a comment by one of the families, Dr Ben Anyene, commended the Governor for his intervention which brought succour to the families of the victims through his intervention and provision of emergency rescue services.
He added that Lagos State also provided ambulances and facilitated DNA tests on the corpses to ensure that the loved ones were identified and also ensured that it provided legal assistance to families in need of it.
He recalled that at one of the meetings with the families of the victims with the Governor, it was agreed that the victims should not be given mass burial and that the Governor agreed to their request and that the families contributed no kobo to the DNA Tests carried out by the state.
Dr Anyene who regretted that Dana Air is already flying despite the resolution of the House of Representatives that it should not do so, charged the Federal Government to do much more by creating an environment of openness and accountability in the aviation industry.
Also speaking, Ms Chizoba Mojekwu thanked the Governor for his humane gestures to the families of the victims and prayed for him and his family, charging the Dana Airlines to rise and step up its game on the issue of compensation to the victims and realize that people should be treated with some respect.`
In his address, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Aviation who stood in for the Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, Mr George Afamuefuna Ozi expressed the gratitude of the Ministry of Aviation to the people and Government of Lagos State for the timely response to the cause of the victims of the crash.
He said the ministry is in touch with Dana Air and would ensure that the airline hastens the process of payment of compensation to the victims and concludes all the issues involved in the process.
Earlier in his welcome address, the State Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr Wale Ahmed said though the Lagos State Government was not in a position to prevent the air crash from happening, it believed that it could do a lot in providing succour to the families of the victims.
He explained that the state was very painstaking in ensuring that it recorded 98 percent success in the process of identifying the bodies of the victims through the DNA tests that was carried out on them.
The Governor, his wife, Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola, relatives of the victims, and members of the Diplomatic Corps including German International Co-operation, Mrs Sylvia Hoster , Consul- General of Germany, Mr Walter Lvon Driesch the Deputy Consul General of China, Qiu Jian later took turns to lay wreaths at the cenotaph of the fallen 157 people.
The solemn ceremony was witnessed by dignitaries including the First Lady, Dame Emanuella Abimbola Fashola, members of the State Executive Council, traditional rulers, members of the Diplomatic Corps and scores of relatives of the victims.