In 2015, the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, acquired three helicopters for security and medical emergencies. The acquisition of the helicopters was hailed by Lagosians as it would help first responders to beat Lagos’ crazy traffic.
That’s what it was meant to be, and what Lagosians believe it is until on Monday, when the Lagos State House of Assembly summoned the Chief of Staff to the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Tayo Ayinde; the Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Sam Egube; Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Tayo Bamgbose-Martins; and the management of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund over the helicopters.
According to Punch, the concern was raised by the Chief Whip of the House, Mrs. Mojisola Meranda, under matters of Urgent Public Importance on Monday, during the plenary.
She said that the helicopters are missing, and their whereabouts should be investigated as well as the contractual agreement between the Lagos State Government and companies designated for their maintenance.
“In 2015, three helicopters were bought under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to strengthen security in the state. But the helicopters are nowhere to be found now.
“I will want us to look at it and get the concerned parties to tell the house House the location of the three helicopters to see if they are just lying fallow or if the state government has entered into an agreement with an entity on the equipment and see to what extent the agreement has been working,” Mrs. Meranda said.
The Speaker of the House of Assembly added his voice to the issue, demanding answers to the whereabout of the helicopters. He said they were meant for security and commercial purposes and the Lagos State House of Assembly should know what the situation of the assets is.
“We need to know what has happened to the helicopters,” he said, and directed the Clerk of the House, Mr. Azeez Sanni to give an account on the helicopters.
While there is hope that the helicopters could be lying in waste on some tarmac somewhere, the development calls to mind a similar incident that took place years ago.
In 2004, MT African Pride, a seized Russian ship laden with 30,000 barrels of oil disappeared from the custody of the Nigerian Navy without a trace. It was an embarrassing moment for Nigeria that charges was instituted against responsible naval officers.
A comedian made a joke story from the incident; he talked about a commercial motorcyclist whose okada (motorcycle) was stolen. He had gone to a police station to report the theft and was chased away by a policeman who said that a motorcycle is so insignificant to be bothered about. After all, if a whole ship could disappear in Nigeria without a trace, there’s no need looking for a missing motorcycle.
And the police officer was right, the okada would never be found just as so many other things that disappear in Nigeria.
It is the 16th anniversary of the missing ship incident, and Lagos State Government is having a helicopter episode. Nigerian public officials are notorious for keeping government assets they used while in the office; from cars to every other thing movable, but helicopters could be an exception.
As emergency situations still abound in Lagos, it is hoped that the three helicopters will be found and returned to their designated services.