Unlicensed Helicopter Companies Jostle for NNPC Contracts


Chinedu Eze

There are indications that briefcase helicopter companies without operational base and Air Operator’s Certificate (AON) are primed to win oil service contracts from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), a development that is giving concern to aviation expert over possible exposure to another spate of accidents in the industry.

THISDAY learnt that reports may be filed with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to critically monitor the activities of oil and gas service helicopter companies to ensure that any company that is bidding for contract with the Exploration and Production companies met all the international requirements as stipulated by the NCAA.

Aviation industry sources disclosed that due to scarcity of jobs occasioned by the current economic recession ravaging the country, there is desperation by organisations and individuals trying to latch at jobs and dropping names of highly placed individuals to gain advantage to win contracts “even when they are not technically qualified for such jobs.”

“We learnt that cronies are using names of who they know to push for joint venture with E and P companies. We have verified from NCAA that some of these companies have no AOCs, no commercial aircraft operation experience in Nigeria, no maintenance hangar and no single commercially certified aircraft in operation and no technical partners.

“We have also learnt that some of these briefcase operators have been pushed through the technical tender and are now awaiting commercial tender even without the stated tangible operational requirements. This is a tragedy waiting to happen. We cannot continue to refuse to learn from the past. We cannot continue to move in circles. NCAA is the last bastion of hope for safe air operation in Nigeria and we hope it will not compromise. We have confident in the regulatory authority,” a source told THISDAY.

In Nigeria, it takes at least 24 months to secure AOC. So some industry insiders are wondering if these briefcase companies win the contract bids how they would secure AOC to operate the contract, meanwhile, having AOC should be the major criteria for winning the bid to ensure that the company would carry out safe operation.

“Aviation in every part of the world maintains very high standard because lives are involved so there is priority to ensure safe operation. I know some helicopter oil and gas service providers that are not bidding for these contracts despite the years of experience they have but they know that at this moment they do not have the technical profile that should qualify them to win the contracts. Some of the major criteria for oil and gas air services are experience, technical personnel and knowledge of the industry. All these upstarts have none of these,” the source added.

THISDAY spoke to the Group General Manager of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Dafe Sajebor, who said enquiries should be referred to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), insisting that NAPIMS could not react to the reports.

Total E and P, Aviation Manager, Thierry De Termmerman, whose company is offering the contracts referred THISDAY to NAPIMS when contacted but gave the assurance that Total would follow due process in the choice of the air services provider.

THISDAY made several calls to the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru but the calls were ignored.

However, reacting to this development, spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye said NNPC and oil firms know the regulations and therefore cannot give such air service contracts to companies that do not meet the given requirements.

“I have been able to establish that no airline can be awarded an off-shore contract by oil companies without clearing with NCAA. This means that if an operator is not duly certificated by the authority, it will not be given the job. In that case, the operators in question have their equipment (helicopter) under a valid AOC holder as allowed by our regulations,” Adurogboye said.