Missing Helicopters: Sirika, NCAT in trouble as Reps demand immediate arrest

Leah TwakiJune 26, 20246 min

Already being prosecuted by the EFCC, former aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, has been referred to be probed by the police over alleged theft of helicopters belonging to NCAT 

NCAT Helicopter Sale: Reps urge IGP to probe culprits 

Immediate minister of aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, has run into fresh touble as the House of Representatives Committee on Public Assets has asked the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, to take immediate action to recover two allegedly stolen helicopters belonging to the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in Zaria.

The committee also tasked the IGP to take over the investigation and prosecute the unlicensed auctioneer and all individuals involved in the controversial sale of the helicopters, including officials of NCAT. 

These decisions stemmed from the resumed hearing of the committee held at the National Assembly on Tuesday. Rep. Ademorin Kuye (APC, Lagos), chairman of the committee, has been leading the investigation into the disappearance of two Bell 206 helicopters, identified as 206-L4 BZB and BZC-M2061 L4.

Kuye said: “The helicopters were stolen rather than sold, as there was no Federal Executive Council approval or ministerial approval letter for the transaction.”

He criticized the process, stating it lacked transparency and failed to meet minimum requirements. Pointing out that the auctioneer involved was not licensed with the Certified Institute of Auctioneers, Nigeria, and the company used for the auction had only been registered three years prior for farm input business.

The committee’s investigation, he said, revealed that no advertisements were made to invite bids, and the helicopters, which had flown only 42 and 46 hours respectively, were sold for a meagre $1.2 million to two companies owned by the same individual. 

This sale denied the Nigerian Army, Police, Navy, and Air Force the opportunity to bid, leaving NCAT without helicopters for student training.” Kuye stated. Speaking to the media after the hearing, he called for the immediate arrest of Sirika.

OrderPaper recalls that in December 2023, the House initiated an investigation into the condition of public assets nationwide. The committee was tasked with recovering assets valued at trillions of naira, including neglected public assets within and outside Nigeria. Additionally, the committee aimed to uncover the reasons behind the hasty sale of two helicopters without Federal Executive Council approval, which occurred just days before the end of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

OrderPaper further recalls that Mr. Sirika is currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged corrupt practices involving him while serving as minister.

READ ALSO: Illegal Disposal of FG Assets: Reps probe Custom, NPA, NRC, others

Army, police pour petrol to fire…

Maj. General S. I. Musa, leading a delegation from the Nigerian Army at the hearing, expressed surprise and disappointment at the transaction, saying despite efforts made to acquire them, “the helicopters were not scraps as portrayed by the authorities of the NCAT.” He stressed that the two helicopters are new ones and only flew 42 and 46 hours respectively.

Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, admitted he had yet to confirm the approval letter allegedly authorizing the sale.

Adeleke Hassan, Registrar of the Certified Institute of Auctioneers, Nigeria, confirmed that the auctioneer was not a member of their institute and that proper procedures for selecting an auctioneer were not followed.

AIG Danladi, who represented the Nigerian Police at the hearing, noted the helicopters were maintained in the same hangar as that of the police, but that the force was unaware of the sale.

Kuye emphasized the need for better management of public assets by government agencies, warning that progress cannot be achieved without accountability and transparency.

The committee ordered the detention of NCAT officials and the unlicensed auctioneer who provided false testimony during the hearing, with National Assembly Police Division officers taking them away for questioning.

What you need to know about the Bell 206 helicopter

The Bell 206 is a series of two-bladed helicopters available in both single- and twin-engine configurations, produced by Bell Helicopter in Quebec, Canada. Initially developed as the Bell YOH-4 for the United States Army’s Light Observation Helicopter program, it was not chosen by the Army. Bell subsequently redesigned the airframe and successfully introduced the aircraft to the commercial market as the five-seat Bell 206A JetRanger.

STAR Check: Nigerians, particularly, constituents of Shomolu federal constituency, can keep tabs on the legislative performance of Rep. Kuye throughout the 10th House here

Photo credit: Featured image courtesy of NCAT website

Leah Twaki

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