The family of a former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Ondo state, Deji Falae, has filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos demanding that the Associated Aviation Nigeria Ltd and Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, be held responsible for the late commissioner’s death.
Mr. Falae was a passenger on board Flight 361, which crashed on October 3, 2013 while taking the remains of former Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Agagu, to Akure, the Ondo State capital. He was son to Olu Falae, a chieftain of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, and the presidential flag-bearer of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, in the 1999 election.
According to the suit, the late Mr. Falae’s wife, Ese, and three teenage children, are claiming damages from the defendants for alleged negligence, leading to the death of the former commissioner. They are claiming $100,000 as general damages and N219,906,250, which they said the deceased would have earned in 15 years as a lawyer, commissioner and owner of a construction firm.
In the alternative, the plaintiffs sought N108,527,750, £160,740 and $19,000 as special damages for alleged breaches of the defendants’ duties under the Civil Aviation Act 2006, Fatal Accident Act 1846 and Fatal Accident Law of Lagos State.
The family also demanded for N5 million as cost of filing the suit and legal fees, as well as 10 per cent interest on the post-judgment sum. In its claims, the family argued that Associated Aviation, which operated the chartered aircraft, breached Section 74 of the Civil Aviation Act 2006 by failing to procure a legally binding insurance policy covering its liabilities. It also failed, according to the family, to procure compensation for damages that may be sustained by third parties.
The plaintiff, therefore, urged the court to hold that the company breached statutory duties imposed by Section 55 of the Act when its aircraft crashed just outside the aerodrome about 9:32 a.m., a minute after take-off, leading to the death of the deceased.
“The first defendant flew its Flight 361 in such a manner as to cause danger to the occupiers of the aircraft and indeed caused the death of the deceased,” said the plaintiff. “The only inference that can be drawn from the circumstances of this incident is that the first defendant was negligent and/or lax in carrying out its duties to the occupiers of the flight.”
The family also argued that the NCAA failed in its duties to ensure that the aircraft was safe to fly. “By virtue of Section 31 (f) of the Civil Aviation Act 2006, the second defendant has a statutory duty to ensure efficiency and regularity of air navigation and the safety of aircraft, persons and property carried in the aircraft and for preventing it from endangering persons and property,” it said.
Meanwhile, the defendants on their parts are praying the court to dismiss the suit. In its defence, the NCAA said the aircraft was airworthy as at the time of the crash, with a valid certificate of air worthiness.
The agency said, “The investigation conducted by the Accident Investigation Bureau did not indict the second defendant (NCAA),” adding that the aircraft was insured at the time of the crash.
“The aircraft was used for charter and while on ground, required routine maintenance was carried out,” it said.
The presiding judge, Hadiza Shagari, adjourned till July 10 for adoption of addresses.