Benin-Ore Chopper Saga, And The New Face Of Transportation In Nigeria Under Insecurity

The Oasis Reporters

June 26, 2019

Chopper landing on the Benin-Ore expressway to pick someone up.

Many Nigerians were bemused when the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA said it had identified the owner of the chopper that suddenly touched down along the Benin-Ore highway to allegedly pick up a lady in distress over the usually atrocious and chaotic Nigerian traffic conditions and has therefore commenced investigation.

757. 48 billion naira was said to have been budgeted for works that should focus a lot more on roads and others, yet when you notice the congestion on roads and their derelict nature which slows travellers down to an endless crawl taking hours for a possible thirty minute journey that gives terrorist kidnappers ample time to overrun commuters and take them to the bush before demanding for ransom, who should be blamed if citizens seek exit strategies?

The video currently trending on social media of a Nigerian billionaire who was stuck on Lagos-Benin Expressway traffic and got picked up by a helicopter, or that the billionaire saw a lady he knows, then touched down to airlift her are some of the versions of the story. But the reality is that a chopper did touch down to pick someone up. And this should be a normal process in medical emergencies or as a way of getting out of dangerous situations especially in the derelict highways that have been taken over by foreign herdsmen terrorist said to come from certain West African countries.

The unnamed billionaire was said to have called an helicopter to pick him up from the traffic snare and to everyone’s consternation, the helicopter landed right on the expressway and picked him up.

The trending video, shows several travellers leaving their vehicles to take pictures and video of the incident on Sunday.

He left the thousands still stranded on the expressway as the helicopter taxied into the sky.

Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Tuesday, said it had commenced investigation into the circumstances surrounding the unscheduled diversion of Helicopter owned by Tropical Arctic Logistics Ltd.

This came as controversy continued to rage among aviation experts on the propriety or otherwise of a helicopter landing on a busy highway to pick a passenger.

The question is, if the billions budgeted for road construction are being utilized, Nigerian engineers are working and traffic is smooth like in civilized countries, would there be a need for choppers to be picking commuters up on free moving highways?

Confirming the commencement of investigation into the helicopter with registration number 5N – BVQ and aircraft type AW139 that landed, Mr Sam Adurogboye, General Manager, Public Relations., NCAA said the result of the investigation would be made public soon.

According to him : “The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is fully aware of the viral video of the Helicopter that landed on the highway. Initial reports indicate that the Helicopter is owned by Tropical Arctic Logistics Ltd.

“The Pilot was compelled to land between Benin and Ore in an unscheduled diversion to pick up someone. NCAA has commenced full scale investigation to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the unscheduled diversion. As soon as the investigation is concluded, the outcome will be made public.”

Commenting on the incident, Nigeria Accident Investigation Bureau ,AIB , General Manager, Public Affairs ,Mr Tunji Oketunbi said : “ I think it is only NAMA that can say if the chopper got a clearance or not. Again, what are the requirements for emergency operations or evacuations? This happens all over the world. Choppers are used to airlift road accidents victims and it may need to land on the road. But what are our local regulations and how are we sure they were not complied with”?

Vanguard newspaper reports that
former Airport Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu, retd, said: “The alert and coordination for aeronautical emergency management and services is NAMA and that explained my initial call on NAMA and NCAA. Even then, any movement of any aircraft from any point of registration to another point registered or not needs the clearance from the ATS under whose jurisdiction the flight is going to be conducted not police and not FRSC”.

Another stakeholder, Dr A. Alex claimed no law was broken by the pilot of the chopper, saying, “I am wondering what is actually lawless about a person having an emergency and having a helicopter come to the rescue? Safety precautions were taken, the area cleared, the pilot must have been aware of the risks of landing on the spot? The crowd indicated that it was a woman. If any of us felt unsafe in a somewhat dangerous area and felt the need to be removed and can afford it, what will we do?”

Also, another stakeholder, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed the company that owns the helicopter got proper clearance to undertake the flight. He said: “ A billionaire gentleman hired the chopper to enable him fast track his journey. Appropriate clearance was sought by the Company and there was no issue. In the course of the said airlift, the man saw someone who knew him or vice versa and asked the lady to join him on the flight”.

This is coming against the backdrop of Scandinavian countries like Sweden that construct perfect roads which charge electric cars as they are driven on them and Norway that builds electric aeroplanes that make shuttle trips, called Air Taxi that are cheap, for a fraction of the billions that Nigeria expends on road construction year in, year out, yet get poorly constructed rundown pot holes filled roads delivered.

Additional source: Vanguard Newspaper.

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Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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