The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), has grounded a private chopper belonging to Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), from flying at the Lagos Airport.
The aircraft, AgustaWestland AW139 chopper, with registration number 5N-EAA, was suspended from flying over two weeks ago, following the expiration of some of its papers and spare parts, according to the Punch.
The suspension, according to officials of the NCAA, would also allow the regulator to conduct vital safety checks on its safety-critical components, especially some spare parts that are due for replacement.
Adeboye last week Saturday had to use the chopper belonging to Bishop David Oyedepo, General Overseer, Living Faith Church Worldwide, to attend a special meeting with all ordained ministers of the mission at the RCCG, Region 21, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
At the meeting in which he arrived late, the cleric called for drastic action against corrupt practices in all facets of Nigeria after someone had requested a bribe from him to fly his chopper.
He said, “I don’t give excuses because I have discovered long ago that only failures give excuses. But you must pray for Nigeria.
“Something must be done about corruption in this nation. All I can say is that I am this late because somebody wanted a bribe. And you know if you are expecting a bribe from me, you have to wait forever.
“But the devil has failed. And the devil will continue to fail. I decided to come by helicopter so that there won’t be a traffic jam that would tie me down on the expressway because I know what the devil could do.
“Then, I ran into something else. But by the grace of God, we are here.”
However, according to a source from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), who is close to the operations of the two choppers belonging to Adeboye and Oyedepo, he blamed the team working directly with Adeboye for not informing the cleric early enough that his chopper had not been cleared by the NCAA.
He said: “The team relating directly with Daddy G.O. should have told the man of God on time that his chopper had not been cleared by the NCAA and, as such, it couldn’t go on the Ibadan trip. They shouldn’t have waited till the last minute. The NCAA (aviation regulatory agency) that we have now is different from what it used to be. There is a new man in charge who always insists that things must be done properly as far as the safety of lives is concerned. The church’s protocol team should have told him that the NCAA has not cleared the aircraft and it may not clear it within a short time because certain procedure must be followed. As such, an alternative arrangement should have been made.”
The source further revealed: “On that last Saturday morning, when it later became obvious that the jet was not cleared to fly, they had to make an alternative arrangement with Bishop Oyedepo’s chopper. They had to quickly begin that process by filing the flight plan, etc. It was Bishop’s aircraft that Pastor Adeboye later flew to the event. He could not use his own.”
Also, another source, a top official of Omni-Blu Aviation, the airline operating the chopper for Adeboye, confirmed the development to the newspaper.
The official, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity, said a letter from the Italy-based Leonardo, the manufacturer of Adeboye’s AW 139 helicopter, requested the NCAA to grant a time extension on some spare parts that are due for replacement came late.
The spare parts due for replacement have been ordered from the manufacturer but are yet to be shipped into Nigeria because they are usually produced on demand, according to Omni-Blu Aviation.
But the NCAA could not immediately grant the requested extension. Instead, the regulatory agency requested that comprehensive safety checks be conducted on the aircraft in line with standard aviation safety practice.
“The NCAA that we have now is different from what it used to be. It always insists on standard. We don’t want any disappointing situation for anybody, especially for a globally reputed servant of God like Daddy G.O. It appears the man of God was not properly briefed. But we thank God an alternative arrangement was made to rescue the situation. Safety is first and paramount. No life is worth toying with, how much more that of a servant of God like Daddy G.O. As an airline, we won’t compromise safety no matter the pressure,’’ the source said.
The Omni-Blu official denied knowledge of any bribe request, either by the airline or aviation officials.
He, however, said it was not impossible that some people might have cashed in on the situation to demand a bribe.
“You know some people don’t fear God no matter what. They can even go to the extent of asking a servant of God for a bribe. So, it is not impossible. But on our part, I am not aware of such.”
As it stands, it is uncertain when Adeboye’s chopper will be allowed to fly.