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Battle For The Soul Of NCAT: Is Corruption Fighting Back?

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The Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) was in the news recently on allegations of corruption. A non-governmental organization, NGO, Transparency Initiative, had raised the alarm through advertisements in a national daily  to alert President  Muhamadu Buhari of what it termed, “The Rot in Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria and The Urgent Need to Intervene Before it is Too Late.”

In the said advertorial, two key issues were raised, thus, “Illegally awarded contract and eventual splitting of same for re-fleeting of trainer aircraft worth over twenty million United States Dollars,” and  “Circumvention of audit report issued by the office of the accountant-General of the federation.”

According to the article, “NCAT has become the beacon of corruption and financial impropriety in recent years and indeed if no urgent measures are taken, the College may be heading for the doldrums.”

The NGO then highlighted numerous transactions the management of the College undertook in recent time perceived to have contravened the laid down rules of operation. It indeed noted that the office of the accountant general of the federation audited the financial transactions of the College for 2014 and 2015 and issued a report dated 30th May, 2016 and signed by A. A. Ibrahim which indicted the management of the College.

The allegation attracted the attention of the federal government and a panel of investigation was set up by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuke Amaechi to look into the matter. As the nation awaits the outcome of the investigative panel, there have been some outpouring of reactions from the industry as to veracity of the allegations by the NGO.

Sources in the aviation sector have described the allegations as an unfounded one, capable of destroying the image of the rector/chief executive officer of the college, Capt. Samuel Caulcrick.

‘‘Those behind Transparency Initiatives are only trying to get at the helmsman at NCAT as their contractual interest in the College has been sidelined under the administration of Capt. Caulcrick who assumed office in March 2014.

‘‘The College’s training aircraft were purchased between 1995 and 1998 implying that they were between 17 and 21 years old. Aircraft at this age, have high maintenance requirements, which leads to increase in the maintenance costs and subsequently operational cost,’’ the source quipped.

The source also said that the fact that since the aircrafts use aviation gasoline (AVGAS 100LL) which is not refined in Nigeria and not readily available; it is bound to be very expensive.

Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP investigations shows that the issue of determining the aircraft of choice for re-fleeting of NCAT’s fleets dated back to 2005 when the management of the College visited various manufacturers of aircrafts for the purpose of assessing the training suitability of aircrafts that run on fuels that are readily available in Nigeria and less expensive.

Manufacturers visited includes, Diamond Aircraft, Vienna, Austria (2005), Pitts Aircraft, USA (2009), Tecnam Aircraft, Naples, Italy (2010), Bell Helicopters, USA (2011), Cessna Aircraft, USA (2013) and Diamond Aircraft, Vienna, Austria (2013).

In addition to solving the fuel crisis, the College was said to have wanted an aircraft that will be equipped with the latest avionics instrumentation, ease of operations and low maintenance requirements.

An expert told Leadership that such transition from piston to jet aircraft would not only help reduces cost but improve safety of operations in the industry.

Investigations also showed that as a result of the factory inspection visit and aircraft assessment carried out by the College delegation, both the DA40 NG Diamond Star and DA42 NG Twin Star Jet AI/Diesel engine aircraft were recommended for consideration due primarily to the long term benefits in the form of savings in operating costs as well as the use of the latest technology which is the trend in the industry.

Sources also said that on the issue of legal approval of aircraft re-fleeting, there are evidences that the programme was captured in the 2013 to 2015 Medium Term Sector Strategy (MTSS), while in the 2013 FGN Appropriation Act, the sum of N150,000,000.00 was appropriated.

It was further revealed that the procurement processes for the award of contract for the re-fleeting of aircraft of NCAT started in 2013 during the tenure of Capt. Chinyere Kalu, the immediate past Rector/Chief Executive of the College.

A source at the College disclosed that the decision of the management to deal directly with Diamond Aircraft, the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) has become a central of controversy as it affected a click of persons who have benefitted from the old order.

Findings, however indicated that in 2013, the management of NCAT under Capt Kalu, Diamond Aircraft confirmed their relationship with “Interjet Nigeria Limited,” as its Nigerian representative. Documents obtained by leadership further revealed that Diamond Aircraft equally confirmed that Interjet is in a working relationship with Zharion international Limited in terms of supplying Diamond Aircraft to NCAT.

According to our findings, the current Rector of the College made other efforts to verify the authenticity of the claims by asking Diamond Aircraft to further clarify its relationship with Interjet and a mail dated September 20, 2014 stating the status of its contractual agreement between both companies was received from Diamond Aircraft.

As noted by a source in NCAT who prefers anonymity because of the Civil service rules, the College management under Capt. Caulcrick had always gone the extra mile to verify the authenticity of contracts and business relations since he assumed office. A situation he noted has aggrieved some persons who are now bent on destroying his good image and as well throw rough him out of office to enable them put in somebody who will dance to the turn of their music.

Meanwhile, in trying to unveil the facts behind the allegations of failure to secure “No Objection” concept from the Bureau of Public Procurements (BPP) before awarding contracts, it was learnt, that the College on 7th October 2013 wrote to the Bureau requesting for Due Process certificate for the award of contract for direct procurement for re-fleeting of trainer aircraft and associated works in favour of Zharion International Limited.

The total sum of the contract was US$29,609,905.41 only, the BPP however refuse to grant the “No Objection” certificate but requested for additional supporting documents, a situation said to be normal in the certification process.

The College on 27th November 2013 responded to BPP’s letter providing the supporting documents, but still failed to get the agency’s approval. Consequently, the budgetary allocation for NCAT in 2013 designed for the project was not utilized.

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