Commercial helicopter operators in Nigeria at the weekend said that the use of Police choppers for charter services for private and civilian customers in recent months against the country’s civil aviation regulations is posing a severe threat to their operations. They have therefore called the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to wade into the matter to protect their businesses.
But the spokesman for the NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye told Daily Sun that the operators should show serious evidence in their allegations without which the regulatory agency will not be able to take any action.
“We don’t believe that the Police will deliberately breach the law; but if any operator feels there is a breach by the Police they should come out with evidence and we will commence an investigation,” Adurobgoye said.
Under the Nigerian Civil Aviation regulations, aircraft in the fleet of the military, police and emergency management establishments are forbidden from being used for “reward and hire services,” which in aviation parlance is referred to as charter operations.
But at the weekend, Daily Sun learnt that registered commercial helicopter operators were lamenting the deployment of Police Air Wing Helicopters to hire and reward operations, noting that the trend was jeopardizing the commercial interest of operators with proper permit, licenses and approvals by the NCAA.
“The involvement of the Police Air Wing Helicopters is undercutting the market share of commercial operators and resulted in reduction of the cost of charter flights for registered helicopter owners,” said a source.
“Such illegal operations has brought down the cost of hiring to Bell Helicopters to a ridiculous 20 percent of the value of such flights by commercial operators and this sort of illegal operations could push scheduled operators out of business if not checked,” the source added.
However, the Police in a statement on Sunday by its spokesperson, Acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, denied the use of its helicopters for commercial or chartered shuttle services.
“The Police Force wishes to categorically state that the helicopters on the fleet of the Nigeria Police Force Air wing don’t run commercial or chartered shuttle services. Police helicopters are deployed on regular basis for operational purposes and to aid other security and safety agencies in their operations and other activities in line with interagency cooperation and collaboration There was no time the Police helicopters were deployed for hire and reward or for charter,” the Police statement added.
But the commercial helicopter source said the NCAA should investigate Police helicopters used in the country insisting that “this practice which we are currently witnessing by Police helicopters apart from being unlawful, is also very dangerous because there is no insurance for such helicopters for carrying civilian customers for commercial purposes,” the source added.
The operators are citing the deployment of Police helicopters for commercial use during the shutdown of the Abuja airport runway for maintenance and for hire by the Nigerian Army at Biu during the foundation laying ceremony of Defence University at Biu for the investigation of the NCAA.