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How NCAT spent N5bn to maintain two redundant helicopters in 10yrs – Rector



In an exclusive interview held in Abuja on Wednesday, Capt. Alkali Modibbo, the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in Zaria, revealed the staggering expenditure of at least N500 million every year to uphold its idle pair of Bell 206 helicopters. With a heavy heart, Modibbo expressed his dismay, highlighting that over the course of a decade, the college had devoted a whopping N5 billion to these two aircraft without ever putting them to use even for a single day.

Helicopter Acquisition and Auction

He explained that the helicopters, which were procured for the college by the former administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan were not useful for the training of students at the college.

Modibbo doubted if the college was contacted when the Federal Government was acquiring the equipment for the use of the school, maintaining that the college only engages in training of personnel for the industry.

He also clarified that the helicopters were not stolen or missing as claimed in some quarters, but explained that the two equipment were duly auctioned through the approved processes of the Federal Government.

He said:

  • “First and foremost, aero planes don’t get missing; if an aircraft takes off, it must land. In the process of landing, the aircraft would be asked many questions about where it is coming from and where it intends to go. The two helicopters were acquired by the Federal Government about 12-13 years ago during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
  • “It was purchased for training pilots, but that kind of helicopter, you can’t use them for initial training of pilots. And what the college does is basic training. The helicopters have jet engines and with jet engines, it is so expensive that an hour of training would take you your Private Pilot Licensing (PPL) on piston engine aeroplanes.
  • “The process for the sales of the helicopters started in 2019, we filed all the papers and requested for approval and evaluation from the ministry. The ministry wanted us to sell it by the bluebook rating, which is the new helicopter prices, but we cannot sell old helicopters using the bluebook pricing.
  • “So, we had to request the ministry to look into that issue and we told them that the aircraft have been with us for more than 10 years, redundant in the hangar. Yet, we maintained the helicopters annually to the tune of N500 million to sit in the hangar. So, after 10 years, we have spent about N5 billion in maintaining the two helicopters and we don’t use it for training or to source any revenue.”

He explained that the two helicopters were auctioned to Federal Government approved auctioneers in conjunction with the Ministry of Works at about $600,000 each.

Plans for Additional Training Helicopters

He also emphasized that plans were on by the college to acquire additional trainee helicopters, which he said would be useful for the college.

On the Boeing 737 simulator aircraft acquired by the college, Modibbo explained that certification of the equipment delayed its use, but assured that it would be put to use very soon.

Certification of Boeing 737 Simulator and ICAO Audit

The NCAT CEO explained that four pilots from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and NCAT, had been trained for its certification, while an additional four engineers from the two agencies would be trained for such purposes before the end of the month.

He noted that the government acquired the equipment to reduce capital flights out of the country and regretted its non-use six years later.

On last week’s Safety International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit carried out in Nigeria, he lamented that the country’s performance was not good enough, but assured that some of the opened items would be closed through corrective action plans of the agencies.

He explained that the standard score for aviation is 75 per cent. Nigeria had scored 70.2 per cent in the exercise.

  • “In aviation, anything below 75 per cent is a fail. I was there at the briefing. Everybody took it in good faith; the Ministry, NCAA, NCAT, the Nigerian Aviation Management Agency (NAMA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and others, we all took it in good faith.
  • “Audit is not a witch hunt, but to help you to put things right. The DG of NCAA and the Permanent Secretary were happy with what they even got because most of the problems we have are the implementation of policies that we have on the ground.
  • “Our policies are very good, but implementation of the policies is what we lack, but NCAA has woken up for the corrective action plans. All I will tell Nigerians and every stakeholder is that it is good to have audits and if you have some open items, it will help you to close them and even do better,” he said.