Admen escape air disaster in Asaba: Body postpones yearly confab

To God be all the glory as a major air disaster over landing at Asaba International Airport was averted mid-noon yesterday by the Air Peace Airline with over 90 percent of members of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), its entire leadership and the airline 10-man crew on board.

The Airline Boeing 73/7500 have been fully loaded with members of the glamorous advertising profession who were on their way to attend the 46th annual general meeting of AAAN, their umbrella body today. The Airline was said to have flown into the Asaba airspace successfully but could not land due to poor visibility occasioned by weather.

In order not to overshoot the run-way due to poor visibility, the pilot returned to Lagos, its original base after another consideration to divert the flight to Benin also proved unsuccessful because of the heavy downpour that caused poor visibility.

Similarly, subsequent flights to Asaba by the Peace Airline yesterday were promptly cancelled by the management of the airline over safety consideration. The development left most passengers due to board the airline stranded. Most of the intending passengers of the cancelled flights were members of the advertising association.

Consequent upon this, the leadership of AAAN has decided to postpone its earlier scheduled yearly general meeting which ought to have commenced in the evening yesterday with a cock-tail party. Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was expected to be the special guest of honour at the rescheduled AGM slated to hold at Western Plus Elomaz Hotel, Asaba, Delta State.

The governor, it was held would have been there in person to declare open the three-day long event which would have held between Thursday, 11th to Saturday, 13th July in the capital city. The event with the theme “The War Within: Solutions for Survival” was to provide an intellectual platform for convergence of eggheads and industry practitioners with a view to critically examining current state of advertising practice and the challenges militating against growth and development of the creative industry in Nigeria.

According to the organisers, “the AGM would also have attracted in audience, many dignitaries in the integrated marketing communications space in Nigeria as captains and chieftains of commerce and industry and also personalities from both private and public sectors. Billed to deliver the key note address at the aborted AGM is the Vice-Chairman of Troyka Holdings, and former CEO of Insight Redefini, Mr. Jimi Awosika.

Commenting on the incident that forced AAAN to postpone the AGM, President of the august body, Mr. Ikechi Odigbo said, “it was quite unfortunate to be taken, but thanked God the industry and indeed the nation did not witness any disaster due to airplane landing mishap.” Specifically, Odigbo revealed that “no fewer than 90 percent of AAAN leadership and members were on-board Air Peace Airline from Lagos to Asaba with a view to attending the AGM. Unfortunately, upon arrival at the Asaba International Airport air-space, the Air Peace Airline Boeing 73/7500 encountered poor visibility challenge due to bad weather as it has been consistently raining since three days now.”

Continuing, Odigbo said, “When the pilot got to the Asaba International Airport space he could not see properly because of poor navigation and lack of proper powering of the airport. Again, the pilot attempted to divert to Benin, yet the situation was the same, hence the air plane had to return to Lagos its initial take off point.”

Speaking further on the implication of the incident, Odigbo stated that “above all, the association and its leadership are grateful to God that there was no ugly incident resulting from the incident beyond the fact that the yearly meeting had to be postponed.”

His words: “First and foremost, we thank God we did not record any casualty as there was no mishap. Yes, we have spent so much on preparations for the AGM no doubt, but these are costs we could count and move on as long as there is life.” “For us, this is a key learning curve. In future, we won’t take our AGM to be held in remote states or cities where there are no good airports or flight facilities or where all members would depend on just one airline for airlift.

“Because you are going to a remote area to hold an AGM, and the only option is that you have just one airline, all of you will be packed full inside the lone airplane like Sardines, does not make sense at all”. Rather, he said AAAN would in future contend itself with having its AGM in Lagos, Abuja, Abeokuta and Ibadan, especially in the face of current security situation in the country which has made road transportation a big gamble.

While thanking God and rejoicing with members for the disaster averted, he hinted that the events and planning committee of the association would soon announce a new date for the aborted meeting. He stated that there is no cause for alarm as the Association has been favoured, advising members to keep trusting in God.

 Similarly, a prominent member and former President of the association, Mrs. Bunmi Oke said it was a thing of joy that no mishap happened as a new date could always be fixed to hold the AGM. The former President who stated that AAAN AGM is a yearly event that members look forward to, because it provides them the opportunity to take some days off their busy schedules, was of the view that what happened was highly unexpected.

In his own comment, Chief Executive Officer of Noah’s Ark, Mr. Lanre Adisa, said, “the postponement of the AGM was the best option disclosed that he was amongst passengers that were stranded at Lagos Airport yesterday following cancellation of all flights to Asaba by the airline. He also rejoiced with passengers on board the airplane which ferried all passengers back successfully to Lagos after suffering poor visibility in its efforts towards landing.

 Speaking on the incident, a highly knowledgeable aviation journalist and assistant editor with The Nation Newspaper, Mr. Kelvin Osunbor debunked claims that Asaba International Airport was ill-equipped”. Though he was of the view that the airport is located in a clumsy and queer terrain, it does not mean that the airport is ill-equipped, stating that if the airport was not well-equipped, the Nigeria-Civil Aviation Authority NCAA would not have certified it.

His words: “Asaba International Airport has a peculiar characteristic in terms of terrain. It is located on a hill slopping into a valley. When an airplane wants to take off, you make sure it does not overshoot the run-away, less it goes into a valley. Same goes for landing, the pilot should get all indicators that would facilitate safe landing or else it runs into a hill or valley.” So what prevented the airplane from landing was purely bad weather which caused poor visibility.

“Considering the fact that Air Peace just emerged from an unpalatable incident at Port Harcourt airport recently, the pilot was being careful not to allow any unforeseen situation to happen, that to me was a wise decision,” he confirmed.

 Asaba Airport is an airport serving Asaba, the capital of Delta State of Nigeria. It also serves Onitsha, across the Niger River in Anambra State.

The airport was opened with great expectations in 2013 but rapid deterioration of the new run-way forced NCAA to lock it down for a long time after which it was refurbished and was re-opened.

Meanwhile, the Association has been counting its costs as the management of the hotel where the event was billed to hold has only agreed to refund only 50% of earlier funds deposits. A new date is yet to be fixed for the aborted yearly event as all other members who had earlier travelled to Asaba were on their way back.


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