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FG suspends Adeboye’s jet over expired documents

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The Federal Government through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has grounded a private chopper belonging to Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the Lagos airport, investigations by Sunday PUNCH has revealed.

It was learnt that the aircraft, AgustaWestland AW139 chopper, with registration number 5N-EAA, was suspended from flying over two weeks ago, following the expiration of some of its papers and spare parts.

The suspension, officials said, would also allow the regulator to conduct vital safety checks on its safety-critical components, especially some spare parts that are due for replacement.

Adeboye had last Saturday during a special meeting with all ordained ministers of the mission at the RCCG, Region 21, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, called for drastic action against corrupt practices in all facets of Nigeria.

The RCCG leader, who flew a chopper to the venue, said he arrived late for the meeting because someone had requested a bribe from him to fly his chopper.

He said he had decided to embark on the trip via his chopper to avoid a possible gridlock on the busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

The 79-year-old mathematician-turned-preacher said, “I don’t give excuses because I have discovered long ago that only failures give excuses. But you must pray for Nigeria.

“Something must be done about corruption in this nation. All I can say is that I am this late because somebody wanted a bribe. And you know if you are expecting a bribe from me, you have to wait forever.

“But the devil has failed. And the devil will continue to fail. I decided to come by helicopter so that there won’t be a traffic jam that would tie me down on the expressway because I know what the devil could do.

“Then, I ran into something else. But by the grace of God, we are here.”

Although Sunday PUNCH could not ascertain who requested the alleged bribe from the revered servant of God, investigations by the paper revealed that the cleric’s chopper was suspended from flying by the regulatory authority over safety issues.

Multiple aviation sources confirmed that Adeboye could not fly his chopper with registration number 5N-EAA to the Ibadan programme but had to fly another aircraft reportedly belonging to Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel).

A top official of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, who is close to the operations of the two choppers belonging to the servants of God, said, “The team relating directly with Daddy G.O. should have told the man of God on time that his chopper had not been cleared by the NCAA and, as such, it couldn’t go on the Ibadan trip. They shouldn’t have waited till the last minute. The NCAA (aviation regulatory agency) that we have now is different from what it used to be. There is a new man in charge who always insists that things must be done properly as far as the safety of lives is concerned. The church’s protocol team should have told him that the NCAA has not cleared the aircraft and it may not clear it within a short time because certain procedure must be followed. As such, an alternative arrangement should have been made.”

The NAMA official, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, further said, “On that last Saturday morning, when it later became obvious that the jet was not cleared to fly, they had to make an alternative arrangement with Bishop Oyedepo’s chopper. They had to quickly begin that process by filing the flight plan, etc. It was Bishop’s aircraft that Pastor Adeboye later flew to the event. He could not use his own.”

A top official of Omni-Blu Aviation, the airline operating the chopper for Adeboye, confirmed the development.

The official, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity, said a letter from Italy-based Leonardo, the manufacturer of Adeboye’s AW 139 helicopter, requesting the NCAA to grant a time extension on some spare parts that are due for replacement came late.

The spare parts due for replacement have been ordered from the manufacturer but they have yet to be shipped into Nigeria because they are usually produced on demand, according to Omni-Blu Aviation.

As such, the NCAA could not immediately grant the requested extension. Instead, the regulatory agency requested that comprehensive safety checks be conducted on the aircraft in line with standard aviation safety practice.

He said, “The NCAA that we have now is different from what it used to be. It always insists on standard. We don’t want any disappointing situation for anybody, especially for a globally reputed servant of God like Daddy G.O. It appears the man of God was not properly briefed. But we thank God an alternative arrangement was made to rescue the situation. Safety is first and paramount. No life is worth toying with, how much more that of a servant of God like Daddy G.O. As an airline, we won’t compromise safety no matter the pressure.”

The Omni-Blu official denied knowledge of any bribe request, either by the airline or aviation officials.

He, however, said it was not impossible that some people might have cashed in on the situation to demand a bribe.

“You know some people don’t fear God no matter what. They can even go to the extent of asking a servant of God for a bribe. So, it is not impossible. But on our part, I am not aware of such.”

As it stands, it is uncertain when Adeboye’s chopper will be allowed to fly.

However, findings revealed that NCAA had directed maintenance and safety checks to be conducted on the aircraft.

As such, the operator has secured a date for this at Aero’s maintenance hangar.

When contacted for comments, the Director-General, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, confirmed that the regulatory agency had suspended flights on the aircraft for safety reasons.

According to him, the NCAA does not often deal directly with individuals or owners of aircraft but the operator.

In this case, he said the NCAA only had business with the operator of the aircraft, Omni-Blu Aviation.

Nuhu said, “There are safety-related issues that must be resolved before the aircraft will be approved for resumption of flights. Safety is the paramount consideration in all approvals given by the NCAA. No matter what, we must not sacrifice safety for flights; that is the whole idea.”

When contacted, the spokesperson for RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said the matter was being resolved already.

On the bribery allegation, he said the church would not want to take issue with the aviation authorities on the matter.

Olubiyi said, “We will not want to take issue with the aviation authorities but I can assure you that an amicable solution is being found to the issue.”

-Sunday PUNCH

Aviation

Rains: NiMet warns of severe turbulence, flight cancellations

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The Director-General, Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Prof. Mansur Matazu, has said airlines will encounter severe turbulence, flight delays and cancellations during rainfall.
He therefore called on pilots and airline managements to adhere to the weather forecast as the likely severe turbulence could cause discomfort, injury to passengers, instability and even loss of control for small aircraft.
Matazu was quoted in a statement on Friday as saying, “Heavy rains could also lead to skidding of aeroplanes due to surface wetness and impaired horizontal visibility.
“Thunderstorms could also lead to accidents, incidents, flight delays, flight cancellation, death, damage among others.
“Windshear could lead to accidents, incidents, aircraft nosedive, discomfort, aircraft lost control and death.”
The NiMet boss urged airline operators to take weather forecast seriously, stating the turbulence usually would cause poor visibility.
He also called on passengers to be patient with the airlines as flight delays, flight cancellations and flight diversion will be experienced within this period.

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Aviation

FAAN moves for safer flights, installs birds control equipment

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The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has installed birds control equipment at the airports in a move to improve safety of flights in the country.

The new facilities, according to a statement by the spokesperson for the authority, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, were inaugurated last week.

She gave a list of the equipment as three different models of bird scaring gas canons; day boxes for carrying pyrotechnics during operations for safety; 15,000 rounds of 12G (heavy-calibre bird scaring pyrotechnics); hi-tech bird laser; personal protective equipment for workers dealing with wildlife; purpose-built TYPE IV explosive storage magazine and brand new Hilux jeep for runway wildlife patrol.

The installation started with the Murtala Muhammed International Airport considered the busiest airport in the country, which recently experienced some bird strikes resorting in flight abortion.

FAAN said the equipment would usher in an era of safe flight operations, as incidents relating to birds strikes would be mitigated.

At an event held at FAAN’s headquarters annex in Lagos, the Managing Director of FAAN,  Captain Rabiu Yadudu, who was represented by the Director of Commercial and Business Development, Alhaji Sadiku Rafindadi, said that the facilities were some of the best around.

He said the authority procured them on the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

FAAN Director of Airport Operations, Captain Muktar Muye, expressed his delight at the arrival of the equipment.

He noted that what was being commissioned was not just the equipment but a complete package that also included the recommended storage facility, patrol vehicle and trained personnel in line with ICAO/Standards and Recommended Practices.

The highpoint of the event was a practical demonstration of the use of some of the equipment by the representative of the MD/CE and the Director of Airport Operations.

Also in attendance were the General Managers; Operations, Mrs Olajumoke Oni; Environment, Mr Nehemiah Auta; Special Duties, Mr Kabiru Muhammed; Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Service, Mr John Ekpe; Regional General Manager, South West, Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba; representative of the GM Corporate Affairs, Mrs Christabel Eromosele; Chief of Staff to MD/CE, Mr Lawal Abdullahi and others.

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Aviation

Arik Air to resume Abuja-Maiduguri flights next Monday

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Arik Air has reintroduced flights from Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja to Maiduguri, Borno State.

The airline said this would take effect from next Monday May 10, 2021.

The airline announced this in a statement signed by Public Relations and Communications Manager, Adebanji Ola.

The statement added that passengers travelling from Lagos could connect seamlessly to this service from Abuja.

The airline said flights would be operated on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The statement quoted Arik Air’s Chief Executive Officer, Roy Ilegbodu, as saying, “We are delighted to reintroduce our services to Maiduguri, following popular demand by our customers for Arik’s presence in the city.

“Customers on this route should again expect the traditional Arik Air hospitality and exceptional service that have become the hallmark of the airline.”

The airline announced the resumption of direct flights from Lagos to Kano in April.

Ilegbodu had said then that the decision to reintroduce direct flights between Lagos and Kano was due to the importance of both cities.

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