As insecurity heightens with the Christmas yuletide usually associated with crime surge is fast approaching, the police will have a hard time effectively combating crime from the air as a result of inadequate helicopters.
Investigations by INDEPENDENT reveal that four out of 13 helicopters in the Police Force are grounded, while only six are operational. The remaining three are on standby to airlift very important personalities (VIPs). This miniscule number of helicopters are expected to serve a country of over 200,000,000 people.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris is said to have made no meaningful efforts since he took over in June 2016 from his predecessor, Solomon Arase, to adequately put the grounded helicopters into operations.
Our investigations reveal that the Airwing Department of the police lacks both manpower and funds to adequately cover the entire country.
In 2012, one of the helicopters crashed killing a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) John Haruna and its pilot a Chief Superintended of Police (CSP), Hananiya Pojah, who were coming from Jos, Plateau State capital in response to an emergency call from a former Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
A former pilot with the airwing confided on INDEPENDENT that, “for effective coverage of crime in the country from air, every state capital and major cities, should have a helipad.” Investigations by INDEPENDENT reveal that, since 2014 the police authority has been striving to construct a helipad in each of the six geo-political zones of the country. But that dream is yet to materialize as only Enugu has a helipad, apart from Lagos and Abuja. Even the Enugu helipad is believed to have been over grown with weeds due to lack of maintenance. Force Headquaters source who pleaded anonymity confided that lack of water and electricity from Enugu airport is stalling effective use of the helipad.
The pilot and the engineer attached to Enugu helipad are said to have relocated to Abuja.
Our investigations also reveal that the police have about 57 pilots and 40 engineers. In 2013 the Nigerian Airforce trained 11 in Enugu with existing eight, 38 more young pilots were employed into the police from Zaira. Another set of about 40 personnel (pilots and engineers) are said to be currently undergoing training and are expected to pass out this month.
However, with only six helicopters functional, it implies a large number of the pilots and engineers are most times idle.
The IGP, Ibrahim Idris is said to have recently approved helipad for Kano. “The contract has been awarded and the Ministry of Interior and the police are jointly handling the project,” a source at Force Headquarters Abuja told INDEPENDENT on Sunday. Our source however, declined to give the cost of constructing the Kano helipad.
INDEPENDENT however, learnt that the Enugu helipad which was completed in 2014, cost about two billion Naira (N2billion). That of Kano could cost more. “The Enugu project should not have cost more than N1billion,” aeronautic engineer told INDEPENDENT under anonymity. The Enugu state government was said to have initiated the project and sponsored a larger cost of it to its completion.
Police officers who spoke to INDEPENDENT under strict anonymity, believe that the IGP decided to construct a helipad in Kano to placate or compensate the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who believed to have recommended Idris to President Buhari for the IGP position.
But the officer in charge of operations of the Airwing Department of the police, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Danladi Lalas told INDEPENDENT on phone on Sunday that, “It is not true, the Enugu helipad is functioning. In fact the helicopter stationed there came to Abuja yesterday (Saturday) for what we call periodic service.” He failed to explain how long it will take to service the helicopter and whether another helicopter has been sent to Enugu in case of emergency. The Enugu helipad serves operations in Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia and Imo states.
Our investigations reveal that there supposed to be a helipad in Gombe, but ACP Lalas further explained that, “there is no helipad in Gombe because of the military operations in the North-east.”
He also explained that the remaining three are not idle but “we don’t have the urgent need to put them into operations. We use some of them to carry very important personalities (VIPs).”
He could not explain whether it is lack of funds or outright neglect to fix the grounded four helicopters. Lalas simply said, “I am a pilot, the technical section is to bring bill of assessment, before we know how much it will cost to fix the grounded ones.”
INDEPENDENT further learnt that on Monday and Tuesday, pilots and engineers had sleepless nights battling to put some of the six helicopters in very good conditions, “to meet the deadline given by the IG for Anambra election,” a source at Force Headquarters said.