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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

FG to enforce law prohibiting aviation workers strikes – Minister

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Aviation may have a raw deal with the Federal Government should they decide to embark on strike or protest at nation’s airports as the FG has vowed to enforce the relevant law prohibiting industrial actions in the sector.

Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika said the FG would no longer tolerate strikes and riots in the aviation sector.

He spoke with State House correspondents on Wednesday at the presidential villa, Abuja, in reaction to flight disruption on Monday at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, following a strike by Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO) staff members over salary increment.

The strike was later suspended after the management of NAHCO said it had commenced negotiations with its workers.
NAHCO provides ground handling (cargo/ramp), passenger, and other services to several international airlines including Air France/KLM, Qatar, Ethiopian Airlines, Delta Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Turkish Air.

Sirika said the FAAN Act prohibited strikes and riots in the aviation sector.
He apologised to the public and said the government would ensure that the law was henceforth enforced to prevent future occurrences.
“This is very important to the travelling public. First, we apologise to them, our teeming passengers in this difficult moment,” Sirika said.
He also said, “This will not happen in the future by the grace of God. And the reason is simple; aviation is an essential service, the act has been assented to by Mr. President, so strikes and riots around our airports are prohibited by the laws of the land.
“Now that we have the act in place and assented to by Mr President and passed by the National Assembly, we will deal with it according to the law.
“We will ensure no essential service is being disrupted by anybody no matter how aggrieved. There are other channels of channeling issues when they arise but they are not permitted to go on strike because aviation is an essential service and is the law of the land now.
“I will give you an example, there was an airline that had to return to base because it couldn’t land. Imagine if there was a patient on that aircraft. Imagine somebody attending to a very serious issue or matter at hand or business or a student trying to catch up with an exam and then because of somebody who is aggrieved some other person will die.
“Government will no longer allow that. So it’s in the law of the land, check the FAAN act, it’s been assented to and it’s going to take place soon, in fact now, from today we will not allow that.”
He said the government was always willing to listen to any grievances, adding that there are procedures to address such.
“They should please desist from this. It is wrong, inhuman, and not allowed. It is not permitted and we will not be permitting it any longer.”

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Aviation

Air passengers stranded in Lagos as aviation workers strike grounds int’l fights

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Many international flights were on Monday grounded at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos as workers of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc commenced an indefinite strike over salary increment.

Most of the foreign carriers operating into Nigeria are clients of NAHCO.

One of the top foreign airlines affected by the strike was Qatar Airways which could not operate its early morning Lagos-Doha flight.

The Middle East carrier which flew into the country early in the morning was forced to fly back to Doha with no passengers due to the nonavailability of NAHCO workers whose main job involves loading and checking in of passengers’ luggage.

As at the time of filing this report all the airlines being handled by NAHCO have been left in confusion just as their passengers.

Apart from Qatar Airways, NAHCO handles check-in, boarding and ramp services for several other international airlines such as Air France/KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, Delta Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Turkish Air.

An affected passenger and aviation expert, Alex Nuba, said that NAHCO staff in the early hours of Monday walked out of the international airport, saying they were on strike and would not handle any passenger.

 

“Even the Qatar flight I’m traveling with this morning landed and has returned to Doha as there’s no one to handle them,” Nwuba said.

He said passengers are frustrated as they have been kept outside to avoid a crisis and no information, announcement or email was sent to passengers.

The National Union of Air Transport Employees [NUATE] and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) had earlier put the workers on notice of the strike following what they called the uncooperative attitude of the NAHCO management towards resolving the welfare issues raised by the workers through the unions.

In the circular issued by the unions and signed by the general secretary of NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba and his ATSSSAN counterpart, Comrade Francis Akinjole, the workers were directed to withdraw their services nationwide by embarking on an indefibe strike until the issues are resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FEC aporoves N2.29bn for light aircraft assembling in Zaria

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The Federal Executive Council has approved N2.29 billion for the assembling of Hungarian Magnus light aircraft at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, Kaduna State.

The council gave the approval on Wednesday at a meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who disclosed this, noted that the renewed demand for the “spin recovery aircraft” necessitated the production of the light aircraft for the training of military and civilian pilots.

Sirika said the first set of assembled aircraft is expected to fly within the last four months of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

He said his ministry presented two memoranda bordering on the local assemblage of the Magnus aircraft and a review of the cost of instrument landing system (ILS) in three airports by an additional N546.1 billion.

Sirika said, “We had two memoranda in council. The first one is the procurement and assemblage of Magnus Centennial aircraft and stimulator in Zaria,” Sirika said.

“So, I’m happy to announce today is the reality. We will indeed assemble the Magnus aircraft and will continue to do so and [in] not too distant future by God’s grace, the industry of civil aviation will begin to manufacture right here in the country. But [we’re] beginning by assembling these training aircraft.

“So, the memoranda have been passed in council. The manufacturer of the airplane is based in Hungary, and has a local company called Ingenious to be done in Zaria. And the total contract sum is N2,296,897,404 with the completion period of 18 months.”

Training aircraft

The minister said the Magnus aircraft is a ‘spin aircraft’, adding that the world of civil aviation stopped its training programme [on] the spin and spin recovery – a navigation skill pilots must have.

He said ‘spin’ literally means to “spin something in an unusual altitude that our club go through”, and therefore, students are taught to identify when they get into a spin situation, and how to recover out of the situation before it becomes a disaster.

The minister, who said many pilots were trained in the skill, added that the need for spin and spin recovery eventually petered out as aircraft became more technologically advanced and sophisticated.

“But again, they all realise that we still get into spin or there is a need for this skill to be developed for recovery out of spin situation,” Sirika said.

“So, most manufacturers stopped producing trainers for that purpose. And so, there are not many people now that manufacture.

“The company in Messrs Maganus, realised that gap [and] started to produce airplanes that can get into spin and out of it, so that students can be trained on that. And because of our maximum attention to safety, we believe that this should come back into training in Nigeria, even the United States of America who, at some point stopped, now are back to training students on this spin and spin recovery.

“So, this airplane is fully aerobotic, goes into aerobatics. And I think the Nigerian air force and the air force around the region will be interested and excited by this development, we are taking the lead in civil aviation. It is our intention to produce them here, assemble them here, [possibly] in the future, sell them out to where we’re interested around the world.

“I think the first one or two aircraft assemblage will happen here in Nigeria and to fly them within the remaining four months that we have as a government. So, it’s another item that is ticked on our plate, and to which we remain grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari and his government”

The minister also disclosed that FEC approved the memorandum that revised the estimated total cost and augmentation, contract for procurement and installation of instrument landing system (ILS) in three airports namely: Port Harcourt International Airport, Kano International Airport, and Katsina airport.

He said the contract, which was awarded earlier, had to be reviewed due to fluctuations in foreign exchange (FX).

Sirika also disclosed that the council approved N546.11 million for the procurement and installation of category ‘3C’ landing system in 15 airports nationwide.

The installation would begin from the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa; Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; and the Katsina airport, he added.

The category 3C landing system, he said, would enable pilots to land in zero-visibility conditions.

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