Controversy Trails Plan by Lagos to Purchase Helicopters

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Controversy has continued to trial the announcement by the Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, that the state will purchase three helicopters to enable security agencies tackle criminal activities from the air as well as assist in monitoring traffic gridlocks across the state. Lagosians asking whether this is not another way of fraudulently fleecing the state of its resources.

Governor Ambode disclosed this while answering questions as a guest on Inspiration FM Radio talk programme, Soni Irabor Live, monitored in Lagos, saying that he was concerned about “the pockets of robberies in some areas of the state in recent times.” The governor expressed optimism that the helicopters would go a long way to aid security and traffic surveillance in the state, and urged residents to join hands with him in solving the challenges.

However, not long after this announcement, Mr Omoyele Sowore, Publishe of Sahara Reporters, an online newspaper stated on his facebook page: “Lagos To Procure Three Helicopters To Battle Crime, Tackle Traffic. In 2009, then Gov. Babatunde Fashola bought two Bell Bell 412 helicopters and claimed they’ll be deployed to fight ‘criminals’. Those choppers ended up in the pool of a private company used in ferrying oil workers to the Niger Delta region. Here we go again, a new set of fraudulent purchases of choppers to fight crime. How on earth could criminals fight crime?

Former Governor of Lagos, Babatunde Fashola. Accused of helicopter fraud in 2007
Former Governor of Lagos, Babatunde Fashola. Accused of helicopter fraud in 2007

Sowore referred to a story published by Sahara Reporters on how the last administration purchased two helicopters that ended in private companies. He stated: “

November 19, 2009, a Lagos–based air transport company, Caverton Helicopters, gleefully announced that it has buffered its onshore and offshore ability to operate more helicopter services. In a story in ThisDay newspapers titled  “Caverton Takes Delivery of New Aircraft,” the company was quoted as stated that it had also “taken delivery of several fixed wing aircraft committed to major operators in the oil and gas sector of the nation’s economy;

But investigations by Saharareporters revealed that the revamping of Caverton was not the product of hard work on the part of its owners. Instead, it resulted from a questionable, and possibly fraudulent, attempt to convert helicopters belonging to the Lagos State government into private commercial use – and for private corporate profit.  Our investigations show that not only are the new aircraft over-priced, they may also not even be used in Lagos to the benefit of Lagosians;

In 2007, the Lagos State Security Trust Fund was established under the Lagos State Security Trust Fund Law 2007 enacted by the state assembly. The Trust Fund was established to raise money and equipment through voluntary subscriptions and donations from all interested government agencies, private organizations and individuals. The funds were then to be invested to take care of the security challenges of the entire state;

In 2008, the audited account of the Trust fund disclosed that it had generated donations from banks and individuals, including N10 million from officials of the state government. A source within the state government tipped off Saharareporters that Caverton was advertising Lagos State Trust Fund-owned helicopters meant for the Lagos state security as its own.

Caverton is owned by a businessman, Remi Makanjuola, who also doubles as the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Lagos Trust Fund. Several sources told us that the company is not as stellar as it is being portrayed in the latest promotional articles touting its supposed corporate success”.

A Lagosian, Francis Awe said that “It is a crooked system.Until there is laid down constitution and the knowledge of right, to challenge and demand stewardship of elected leaders during and after service, they will keep on making mockery of us. Am sure we all see how individual vote can change a government, so also is the voice. Another Lagosian, Olaniyi Lawale wondered “why they can’t do little projects that generates jobs for the people rather they go after unnecessary buying of helicopters so that they they can bloat the prices”.

However, Kemi Oseni said: “If this story by Sahara Reporters is real “Lagos To Procure Three Helicopters To Battle Crime, Tackle Traffic” I don’t think this is what Lagos need urgently, there are many areas money for the helicopters could be used to reduce the economic hardship the country is facing now. It is well with Nigeria. Also, Bukola Blessing sees it as a welcome development. “But there should be a master plan on how to judiciously make use of the Choppers. Lagos buildings are not properly spaced with lots of wires from PHCN to NITEL hanging all over the place. How will the choppers fly and drop off the special Air Cops?, she asked.

 

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