FG Mum As CSOs Condemn ‘Fishy’ $12m Helicopters Secret Sale

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have expressed anger at the sale of government helicopters belonging to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, Kaduna, amounting to about $12 million without proper accounting.

LEADERSHIP reports that there has been a conspiracy of silence over the sale of the helicopters.
The CSOs wondered how the NCAT helicopters were shifted to Florida in the US and sold without Nigerians’ knowledge.

All the top senior aviation officials who should have spoken on the matter when contacted either feigned ignorance of the deal or kept mum.

Even the minister of aviation and aerospace development, Festus Keyamo, and his spokesman, Tunde Moshood, declined to respond to LEADERSHIP’s inquiries.

The CSOs who spoke to LEADERSHIP are the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).

Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs insisted that relevant government agencies must come clean about the ‘secret giveaway sale’ of the helicopters.

Specifically, the CSOs said that NCAT, NCAA, and the Aviation Ministry must clarify the issues around the transaction.

“That’s why we have always insisted that we must reset the laws of this country. We have public procurement laws and others that make the government transparent.

“Government officials seem not interested in working based on the laws because of their selfish interest. Properties belonging to the government will be taken and shipped to other countries without public knowledge.

“Some people think when they have power, they do what they want to do, which is not good for the system and country. We must investigate this and ensure that everyone involved in corruption is punished.

“We want the relevant government authorities to explain what happened because they must tell Nigerians what happened. NCAT, NCAA, the Aviation Ministry and other relevant government agencies involved in this must be brought to book,” Rafsanjani said.

LEADERSHIP reports that despite what started as a promising investigation by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Assets into how two aircraft belonging to the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria, Kaduna, were sold and shipped to the United States of America, crucial details of the transaction remain shrouded in secrecy.

The House Committee on Public Assets had on July 31, 2023 moved to launch the investigation sequel to media reports on the purported sale of two Bell 206L-3 helicopters which were public assets acquired for training pilots by NCAT.

The committee, in a press statement signed by its chairman, Hon. Ademorin Kuye, said the sale of the helicopters in March 2023 under the pretext of underutilisation by the College of Aviation authorities was a symptom of the worrying trend of asset stripping in all sectors of the economy by all MDAs toward the twilight of the last administration.

The choppers, Bell 206L4 BZB and Bell M2061-L4, were bought during ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and sold to private individuals for less than five percent of their original cost.
The committee chairman, Ademorin Kuye, expressed dissatisfaction with NCAT’s decision to sell the helicopters at such a steep discount.

The House committee further accused the institution of failing to remit the proceeds from the sales to the federal government’s Treasury Single Account and using outdated exchange rates.

The vice chairman of the committee, Ismailia Dabo, also raised concerns about other potential financial irregularities, citing the lack of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and certification from the Institute of Auctioneers in Nigeria by the company responsible for the auction.
NCAT had said it auctioned two helicopters at a total of $556,200,322 (N1.2 billion) because of underutilisation.

While the probe launched with fanfare by the lawmakers has revealed important details and is in a state of hibernation, fresh facts have emerged on how the two training helicopters were dismantled, shipped, and sold by some top officials of the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development.
However, LEADERSHIP’s investigation has shown that the aircraft were allegedly dismantled at the executive jet hangar at Lagos airport before being smuggled to Florida, United States of America, where they were sold.

It was further gathered that the cockpit of the choppers also indicated a mileage of less than 50 hours.
While the aircraft had been registered in Nigeria and could have been exported without first being deregistered by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority and an export certificate issued, the present management of NCAA feigned ignorance about the entire episode when contacted.

But a source had informed LEADERSHIP that the helicopters were sold discreetly, dismantled and packed neatly into containers and shipped out of Nigeria.
The source further stated that the choppers were sighted at helicopter parts and services at Pompano Beach Airport, Florida, in the United States.

The helicopters were purchased at a cost of $6m each ($12m in total). Their registration numbers are 5N-BZB and 5N-BZC, and each has a passenger capacity of seven people.
They were delivered to NCAT at about the year 2020 but, curiously, the two choppers were flown to Lagos in the twilight of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration last year. On arrival, they were initially parked at the Police hangar at the Ikeja airport before being moved days later to the Executive Jet hangar. Discreetly, the choppers were dismantled and packed neatly into containers and cargoed out of Nigeria.

“At the dismantling, the two choppers were said to have only 40 hours and 30 hours mileage, respectively, indicating they were still relatively brand new, yet they were both auctioned for just over $500,000 when the current price is $6m each,” a source said.

Former rector of the academy, Modibo Alkali, on whose tenure the dismantling and alleged sales of the helicopters happened, asked LEADERSHIP to contact NCAT for more facts about the matter.

Also, when contacted, Capt. Chris Najomo, the acting director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority of Nigeria (NCAA), said he was not privy to the helicopter registration or deregistration information.

He, however, offered to investigate and share the information with LEADERSHIP.

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