From obscurity to W’Africa accident investigation power house

From obscurity to one of pride, not only for Nigeria but for the West African sub-region: That is the story of the Accident Investigation Bureau- Nigeria (AIB-N) as the Republic of Cameroon sought the support of the Bureau to help investigate an air accident that occurred in the sister African country. The accident, involving a Havilland DHC 400 Twin Otter aircraft, occurred on May 11, in Cameroon.

The recent invitation by Cameroon’s Director of Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Transportation, Mrs. Essimi Dine who led a team from Cameroon to AIB-N headquarters on the matter testified to the remarkable job the AIB-N under Akin Olateru has done to reposition the agency from one ‘irrelevant’ agency to one that has truly become the pride of Nigeria’s aviation industry.

From left to Right: Col. Brice Okomou, Mrs. Leopoldine Essimi, Investigator in Charge, Ministry of Transport, Cameron, Engr. Akin Olateru, Commissioner/CEO, Accident Investigation Bureau Nigeria (AIB-N) Mr. Kofo Macaulay of Caverton Nigeria, and Capt. Dayyabu Danraka, Director of Operations AIB at a joint press briefing held in AIB Corporate Headquarters in Abuja…recently

She said the support of AIB-N was necessary due to its advanced infrastructure for accident investigation by the agency.

Dine said the AIB-N would help the Cameroon authorities to download and analyse information from the recorder of the aircraft on the accident that occurred in Cameroon.

According to her, the Republic of Cameroon will further collaborate with AIB-N on capacity building in accident investigation.

“We have come to see how AIB-N is doing things. What they can do in terms of equipment and infrastructure they have”.

“Thank you for your warm welcome here in Nigeria. We appreciate the support of the AIB. We are sure that the cause of the accident will be resolved after our work here. We will further request other areas of collaboration. We really appreciate the support of AIB, “ she said.

Earlier, Commissioner, AIB-N, Akin Olateru, the Commissioner of AIB-N, said the bureau would be part of the accident investigation being carried out by Cameroon, noting that Nigerians were on board.

According to him, two Nigerian pilots and a Cameroonian operator were involved in the accident.

“Cameroon has decided to seek the assistance of AIB-N in terms of the investigation to help with the download of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), analysis of information, and animation of how it happened.

“As you are aware, we have one of the best accident investigation laboratories in the world. We have the capability of getting information from the damaged recorder that the aircraft came with.

“The aircraft came with a highly burned recorder. We will be able to retrieve information from it, “ he said.

Olateru said the AIB-N had previously helped some African countries including Niger Republic, Gambia, and Sierra Leone in accident investigations.

He said that AIB-N had just received approval from the Ministry of Justice to sign an MOU with Sierra Leone to help the country to set up an Independent Accident Investigation Centre.

This is not the first time AIB would be offered technical assistance to other West African nations. Five years ago, Sao Tome and Principe had invited the Bureau to assist it to investigate the crash of an ‘An – 74’ aircraft.

The An-74 aircraft was performing its takeoff run in favourable weather on Runway 29 at Sao Tome airport when at some point one or multiple birds collided with the aircraft.

The Russian aircraft, while doing an aborted take-off reportedly ran beyond the end of the runway where it fell down an embankment and was damaged beyond repair. Although the aircraft was badly damaged, all the six crew members survived with injuries.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation had said recently that the revitalised air safety laboratory of Nigeria’s Accident Investigation Bureau would be of benefit to seven countries in the West African sub-region.

It said Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Cape Verde, and Sierra Leone, as well as Nigeria, would benefit from the $5.8m laboratory that was revived last week by the management of the AIB.

The agency is set to become the first in the world to introduce digitalized reporting that will change the face of serious incidents and accidents reporting and take safety recommendations nearer to the public.

The digital reporting system would be web-based, with graphics, and an animated style as it would further ease safety recommendation reports.


AIB logo

According to Olateru, “We need to move to the 21st century of accident reporting. With the new style we are coming up with, AIB-N will be the first organization in the world to improve on Annex 13. We are already discussing with ICAO and we are at the procurement stage at the moment. However, we hope to start the new system before the end of the year”.

The appointment of Olateru, an aircraft engineer, in 2017, opened a vista of opportunities and put the agency on a global pedestal.

Wole Shadare