There are indications that the National Emergency Management Agency can no longer support any air emergency response in the country following the grounding of the agency’s air ambulance and the Search and Rescue helicopter by the current Director General, Engr. Mustapha Yunusa Maihaja, PRNigeria is reporting.
Rather than relying on qualified and experienced Nigerian pilots, Maihaja has reportedly employed a foreigner to manage the sensitive air operation unit of the agency for emergency management in the country.
The air ambulance launched in February 2015 was meant to deliver emergency healthcare and quick transportation of patients with emergency cases.
Investigations and data obtained by PRNigeria also reveal that the air ambulance was last flown on June 7, 2017 and now in need of serious corrosion check, bench check, total overhaul, most especially the landing gear.
An on-the-spot assessment of the Air Ambulance Service, a 12-passenger aircraft, marked 5N−EMS, the helicopter marked NEMA rescue with 5N−NEM as its registration number, indicated that they were in dire need of rehabilitation.
A top official at the Presidency, who does not want his name in print, confided in PRNigeria that elder statesmen, Dr. Maitama Sule, and former Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, now of blessed memories, all approached NEMA for air ambulance service when they were seriously sick and needed to be flown abroad but were turned down due to the fact that the Air Worthiness Certificate and insurance of the aircraft had expired owing to the alleged negligence of the Director General.
“The aircraft were in very good condition before the emergence of Engr. Maihaja as the new helmsman in 2017 when they were deployed for medical evacuation, rescue operations and clandestine security operations and even flown to the agency’s headquarters and the trauma centre at the National Hospital,” said the official.
The Nigerian pilot who headed the Air Wing Department, Captain Ibrahim Mamman-Ali, was suddenly suspended with other directors in the agency by Maihaja in clear disobedience to National Assembly resolutions recalling them.
Captain Mamman-Ali ensured that the aircrafts were in perfect condition with all procedures moving smoothly, including remittance of revenue generated through commercial operations, into NEMA Treasury Single Account.
Among activities carried out by the erstwhile head of the air wing were but not limited to covert security operations and evacuation of wounded Nigerians, including security officers, most especially when Maiduguri airport was closed as the Boko Haram insurgency raged.
Meanwhile, in flagrant disobedience to Public Service rules and regulations and in violation of Executive Order 003 recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, Maihaja has gone ahead to hire a foreigner not qualified as engineer or pilot to overhaul the air wing of the agency.
The new head of the air wing, Alex Elk Vanm has a business administration qualification and has been mandated to oversee the operations of the air wing of NEMA with a whooping salary of over $10,000 monthly when all the NEMA’s aircraft for emergency management in the country have been grounded.
The certificates of airworthiness and insurance for the two aircrafts have expired and they are parked outside the hanger of the Nigerian Police Air Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, daily beaten by sun and rain.
It costs between N140 million and N150 million to renew the insurance for the air ambulance and the helicopter since they were purchased brand new.
In line with Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Standards and Procedures, aircrafts must be serviceable and must undergo a periodic maintenance and test flight carried out before procedure of renewal of certificate of airworthiness can commence.