1.1 Background to the Research
As the world’s fleet of commercial aircraft continues to grow and global airlines capacity steadily on the increase, Nigerian operators and the passengers are facing commercial conflicts emanating from injuries suffered by victims of air calamities as a result of loss of lives, properties or bodily and psychological injuries1. Aviation has become an integral part of the social economic life of nations. Nigeria by its size, population and position in the continent of Africa is naturally and strategically positioned as a natural hub in the West Africa sub region thereby constituting a market that would ensure and support sustained growth in air transportation2.
Although, aviation is a known and understood transport system, notwithstanding the usual occurrence of aircraft accident the extent of patronizing air transportation is on increase globally, due to the readiness of individuals and business class to attend to their business and personal needs with dispatch anywhere in the world. When such disaster occurs, relations of the passengers or the victims themselves are legally entitled to some quantum of compensation for the loss of their loved ones and loss of their Luggage respectively. It is therefore not certain whether all relations of such victims could be paid the same amount as compensation as a matter of course or on legal demand by way of civil litigation irrespective of their positions. It is also not settled and not clears whether a Nigerian victim entitles to the same amount of compensation like a victim whose plane crashed in the territory of the United State of America3. The question becomes doubly important in determining whether victims or their relations have a cause of action either in tort, contract or insurance to demand for higher compensation in addition to what is statutorily provided.
Agada, J.A. O, Amana A.R. & P. Yer, (2009) Legal Frame Work For International Air Service Agreement Critical Analysis,Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, Learned publishing and consultant Ltd, Lagos, vol 1, PP140 – 146. Calistus E.U, (2006) introduction to Civil Aviation Law in Nigeria. Aviation Publishing and Consultancy Co. Ltd. Lagos, P11 3. Kalu, A.U. addressing the claim and compensation for damages in aviation environment, corporate and
private matters,” delivered at the Nigerian Law Conference “Challenges of Legal Practice in 21st Century Nigeria under the auspices of the Nigerian law Reform Commission, (25th – 27th November,1997) Abuja, Nigeria.
It therefore becomes pertinent to examine and analize the possibility of remedying the injuries suffered by the passengers to their persons, lives and property with a view to examining the compensation regimes and to see why some victims are not compensated at all and why those compensated get the compensation so late?
The scope of who constitute victims in the legal parlance and in respect to carriage by aircraft is not conclusively settled within the popular words of embarking or disembarking an aircraft. This shall be examined in this research work for the purpose of ascertaining when a passenger and his relation can benefit from the compensation regimes.
The cases of Sudan Airways Vs. Mohamed Abdullahi,4 Kabo Air vs. Oladipo5 and Cameroon Airlines vs. Jumai Abdulkareem6 among others explained variously how the superior courts in Nigeria viewed the liability regimes in aviation in favour of passengers against the carrier. In some of the decisions, it was resolved that a passenger can be entitled to huge damages on the condition that the passenger shall prove willful misconduct on the part of the carrier. This is in contradistinction with Article 22 (5 & 2) which makes carrier liable for higher damages where recklessness or negligence is proved.
AN APPRAISAL OF LIABILITY REGIME FOR REDRESS AND COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS OF AIRCRAFT ACCIDENTS IN NIGERIA