By Tunji Oketunbi
AIRCRAFT Accident Investigation is a big business in global aviation industry. Managing a body responsible for carrying out this function requires a serious-minded and an astute administrator. Engr. Akin Olateru, the Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, is a typical example of the maxim “a round peg in a round hole.”
In 36 months in office, he has turned around the fortune of the hitherto obscure bureau and made it one of the most competitive agencies not just in Nigeria, but in the global aviation industry. The Bureau’s core function is to investigate aircraft accidents or serious incidents with a view to preventing future recurrence of similar accident or incident.
This function is not effectively carried out if the report is not released to the public and the safety recommendations made available to the stakeholders. Today, AIB can boast of being aligned to its core mandate. Thanks to the emergence of a purposeful leadership in this important agency.
AIB today has formed massive symbiotic relationship, partnership and collaboration with organisations that matter most in the sector and beyond – the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Transport Safety Board, the independent US government investigative agency responsible for civil transport accident investigation, Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of United Kingdom, Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile (BEA- France), University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), University of Lagos (UNILAG), Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) from Singapore and the Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA), an arm of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to mention just a few.
With the paltry three per cent of the Ticket Sales Charge, TSC, received from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) by the bureau, it was obvious the sum could not enable AIB to attain its desired dream. Olateru devised a new strategy for AIB to stay afloat, relevant and competitive. Today, proven professionals in the sector are hitching to work in AIB.
When Olateru came onboard in 2017, he expressed dismay at the late release of accident reports by the bureau that was set up in 2007 primarily to investigate any civil aircraft accident and serious incident occurring either in or over Nigeria or occurring to Nigeria aircraft elsewhere.
In his maiden media interaction, Olateru said: “Accident investigation is about timely release of reports, give the right recommendations and that will enhance the overall safety of the industry. But, if you don’t do that, the purpose of the report is defeated. We hope to change that.” True to his word, Olateru has ensured consistent release of accident and serious incident reports with hundreds of safety recommendations.
Between 2017 and 2019, the total number of reports released by Olateru and his management team is 58.7 per cent of total reports released since the bureau was set up in 2007! That feat is unassailable, yet, he is not resting on his oars. In the first quarter of 2020, AIB under Olateru plans to release to the public additional 10 reports, thereby bringing to 65 per cent of reports since inception released by the current management in about three years.
Apart from quick release of accident reports, Olateru also monitors the implementation of the safety recommendations by AIB. Since 2017 till date, 85 per cent of the safety recommendations from AIB have been implemented; situation which shows that the safety recommendations are implementable and affecting aviation safety positively.
Some of the achievements of Olateru in 2019 alone include, but are not limited to the release of six final reports with safety recommendations, signing of pact with France on Executive Technical Cooperation Programme, ETCP, new Conditions of Service for AIB after 12 years, opening and commissioning of two regional offices in Kano and Enugu, commissioning of well-equipped Command and Control Centre, the review of the bureau’s regulations through stakeholders meeting and organisation of a symposium in collaboration with the US NTSB/ Safe Skies and continuous human capacity training for all staff.
Besides, within the past year, the bureau’s Flight Safety Laboratory got certified in accordance with ISASI flight recorder working group and ICAO’s standard practices and procedures for the purposes of occurrence investigations. This was a laboratory that was moribund before Olateru assumed office. Other achievements include the appointment of one of the bureau’s investigators by ICAO as the BAGAIA new Commissioner, training of 400 security personnel (Police, Road Safety and Civil Defence) on Air Disaster Management, training of aviation journalists on Investigation Management & Media Relations in collaboration with Southern California Safety Institute (SCSI) and increase in staff strength.
For the first time in the history of AIB-N, the Bureau was requested by ICAO to investigate an air crash in Sai Tome and Principe even as neighbouring countries are signing Memoranda of Understanding with the agency for support on accident investigation. AIB-N has become a force to be reckoned with and the the sub region is playing notable leadership roles.
However, these achievements have not gone unnoticed and have garnered recognition from several institutions with awards presented to Olateru and the bureau. Some of them include Nigerian Aviation (NIGAV) Award, 2017- Most Innovative Aviation Leader of the Year, ninth LEAD Grand Award, 2017- Excellence in Safety Management, Nigerian Aviation (NIGAV) Award, 2018 – Aviation CEO of the Year and Nigeria Transport Awards, 2018- A Frontline Transport & Logistics Personality in Nigeria.
No doubt, Akin Olateru as a multi-talented, resourceful aviation industry professional with vast Airline and Air Transport management expertise has shown that he is the right man to take AIB-N to the desired level and can perform better when given higher responsibilities in the future. With the agency waiting to take on multimodal accident investigation responsibility, it is sure that the sky is not the limit for the aviation body that is creating waves in the global aviation industry.
Olateru has acquired almost 30 years of industry experience, criss-crosses the aviation Industry in the UK, Europe and Nigeria, at hands-on operational, management and top executive levels. His desire has always been to create a better and safer sky for the flying public, and has strategically grown his career pathway through the core aviation units of aircraft engineering maintenance, ground handling and passenger and cargo transport operations in the bid to becoming well-rounded and grounded in the business of air transportation. The cap really fits Olateru.