The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has mandated the Associated Aviation Nigeria Limited, the parent company of defunct Associated Airline, to pay the sum of N246m as compensation for the death of a former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Ondo State, Deji Falae.
Falae, then a serving commissioner, was among the people who lost their lives on October 3, 2013, to the ill-fated Associated Aviation aircraft which conveying the remains of a former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu, from Lagos to Ondo for burial, crashed at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.
The aircraft reportedly crashed just outside the aerodrome at about 9.32am, just a minute after it took off.
The widow of the late commissioner, Ese, and her three children had sued Associated Airline, praying the court to hold that the airline’s negligence was responsible for Falae’s death.
They urged the court to declare that Associated Aviation Nigeria Limited and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority failed in their obligation of ensuring the safety of the passengers aboard the Flight 361.
They sought compensation in the sum of $100,000 as general damages as well as another N219,906,250 “which the deceased would have earned in 15 years as a lawyer, a commissioner and owner of a construction firm had he not died.”
In the alternative, they pray the court to order the defendants to pay them N108,527,750, £160,740 and $19,000 as special damages for alleged breaches of the defendants’ respective duties under the Civil Aviation Act 2006, Fatal Accident Act 1846 and Fatal Accident Law of Lagos State.
They also want the court to order the defendants to bear the cost of filing the lawsuit, which they put at N5m.
In a judgment on Wednesday, Justice Hadizat Shagari held that the airline and the NCAA could not exonerate themselves from Falae’s death.
The judge held, “From the evidence of the principal witness, Ese Falae, the window, the fact of the case speaks for itself.
“The first defendant, the Associated Aviation Nigeria Limited, and the second defendant, Nigeria Civil Aviation Agency, cannot exonerate themselves from the circumstances surrounding the crash of the aircraft that claimed the life of Deji Falae.
“In my view, the plaintiffs succeed in their claims against the defendants. Judgment is hereby entered in their favour as per their claims.”
Ese and her children urged the court to hold 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, including compensation for damages that may be sustained by third parties.
They contended that they lost the head of their family on account of the airline’s negligence, noting that the aircraft had hardly taken off when it crashed.