…….Topbrass accuses heads of aviation agencies, Aerocontractor of sabotage
The Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Captain Muktar Usman has described as baseless the allegation leveled against the Authority by Captain Roland Iyayi of tempering with its aircraft.
Captain Usman said he was surprised that the Managing Director of Topbrass would level such allegations against the authority, adding that it would take precautionary steps to respond to TopBrass Aviation.
In an interview with aviation reporters in Lagos, Usman expressed surprise that the matter before the court was still debated when the Captain Iyayi should have waited for the court to handle the matter, adding that since the case was in the court of law, he would rather keep mum and wait till the case go through the processes.
Topbrass Managing Director, Roland Iyayi had said that despite a Federal High Court summons on the regulatory agency over contempt of court in the disputed ownership of two Bombardier jets at Lagos airport, filed by Top Brass Aviation, the court order is allegedly still being flouted.
The NCAA boss stressed that it intends to meet the airline operator in court to challenge the allegations against it on the two Dash-8 Q-300s with registration 5N-MSN 61TBB with 3 and 5N-TBC with MSN 614 , which is currently housed at the Aero Contractors hangar.
He said: “First of all, I am not in the know of any tampering of any aircraft because the company did not put its aircraft under the watch of NCAA and I believe that as a responsible organization, we should not be discussing a case that is before the court.
“I am surprised that TopBrass is being mentioned everywhere. We will respect the court. We will wait until the outcome of the judgment before we will make any pronouncement. However, Nigeria is a signatory to the Cape Town Convention, which helps especially African countries to get access to lease of aircraft.
“In the process, there are procedures, whoever that is leasing, signs an adherence, which allows the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to deregister aircraft when there are defaults.
“I will be very surprise that today NCAA has been dragged to court severally by this person who signed voluntarily and it is the same person that is making the allegation. So, we will meet in court.”
In the last few years, a Nigerian operator – Topbrass Aviation has been embroiled in enmeshed in controversy over contractual disagreement between it and an aircraft lessor – SeaGold Investment Limited.
TopBrass Aviation, according to its President, Captain Roland Iyayi leased two Bombardier Propeller aircraft from the firm for a finance purchase agreement covering 30 months for which it committed over $12 million.
The airplanes (registration numbers 5N-TBB and 5N-TBC) have been the focus of a legal tussle between the lessor, Seagold Investment Limited, and Topbrass Aviation Services.
Some interested parties have, however, acquired the aircraft contrary to the orders of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
They are now stationed at the Aero Contractors’ Maintenance and Overhaul (AMO) hangar but with registration numbers already wiped off.
The Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, last year served a Contempt of Court order on the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), NCAA boss, Capt. Muktar Usman, Aero Contractors, its Managing Director Capt. Ado Sanusi and a pilot in the presidential fleet, Capt. Baba Mohammed.
Last year, Topbrass Aviation raised the alarm that the NCAA and some individuals attempted to smuggle out two aircraft parked at the tarmac of the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airpoirt, Ikeja, Lagos.
The airline said NCAA was working in concert with FAAN to ferry the two airplanes out of Nigeria.
President, Topbrass Aviation, Captain Roland Iyayi, said the NCAA, FAAN, and Aerocontractors have been colluding with the firm to take possession of the two aircraft, even after Topbrass had concluded an agreement with SEA Gold Investment Limited.
Iyayi alleged that NCAA, had since 2015 de-registered the aircraft from its data base.
Sensing surreptitious moves to ferry the aircraft out of the country, Iyayi said Topbrass went to court to secure an order restraining concerned parties from tampering with the two aircraft.
He regrets that despite the court order asking the parties not to tamper with the aircraft, NCAA and FAAN, and others are still perfecting plans to ferry the aircraft out of town.
Sequel to this, Iyayi said Topbrass Aviation had filed contempt proceedings charge against the affected parties.
Investigations revealed that FAAN, despite orders of the court restraining it from tampering with the aircraft has communicated its security personnel to release the aircraft to SEA Gold Investment Limited.
In a letter with reference number FAAN /1600/OOT331, the authority said, “We write in respect of two aircraft (Bombardier Dosh 8 Q300 series) parked at the General Aviation Terminal of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja.
“You are hereby directed to grant Messrs SEA Gold Investment Limited access to the aircraft and release same to the company accordingly.
“The above is for your information and further necessary action. Please ensure strict compliance and treat as very urgent.”
Copies of the letter by FAAN were forwarded to Director General of NCAA, Director, Security Services, FAAN, Director, Airport Operations, FAAN and Terminal Manager, (GAT, FAAN).
It was learnt that the two 50-seater airplanes, manufactured in 2004, came into the operations of Seagold in 2005. The company ran the offshore operations of Chevron in Angola, while Topbrass operated for Chevron in Nigeria. In 2011, the companies, orchestrated by Chevron, signed a finance purchase agreement for the two aircraft, for which Topbrass paid $12 million in 30-month lease tenure, towards fully acquiring the jets.
The Chief Executive Officer of Topbrass, Capt. Roland Iyayi, said his company kept to the terms of agreement but the lessor later failed at execution. Because of this and coupled with Chevron’s alleged desire to repossess the assets for transfer to Aero Contractors on a five-year lease, Topbrass parked both airplanes, declared a dispute with Chevron Nigeria, and approached the court for redress in 2015.
Iyayi said both parties later pursued an out of court settlement in 2017 and renegotiated the terms of agreement. But at the point of concluding the pact, “some interested parties, led by Capt. Baba Mohammed, intervened, telling Seagold not to settle with Topbrass and still assuring that they could recover the airplanes despite our $12 million contribution.”
“We were forced to return to court for an exparte order, which was given by the court, restraining all parties, including Topbrass, from tampering with the aircraft until the determination of the substantive matter. The copies were made available to parties like NCAA, FAAN and NAMA and so on.
Three weeks ago the matter came to a head when a judge of Federal High Court, Justice Muslim Hassan summoned the Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Captain Mukthar Usam and the Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria ( FAAN), Saleh Dunoma for their failure to appear in court over contempt charge for tampering with two Bombardier aircraft belonging to Topbrass Aviation.
They are to appear in court at the next adjourned date fixed for February 28, 2019 to explain why they gave orders for tampering of the two Bombardier aircraft in contention between Topbrass Aviation and SeaGold Investment Limited, the lessor of the aircraft.
The summons was a fall out at the hearing of contempt proceedings On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, by Justice M. S
President, Topbrass Aviation, Captain Roland Iyayi, who disclosed this, said the summons became imperative because of the role played by NCAA and FAAN bosses in the disputed at Lagos airport.
Iyayi said despite a subsisting Court Order, NCAA and FAAN colluded with agents of the lessor to move the aircraft in question to a repair facility belonging to AeroContractors, where the aircraft are being tampered with.
He said despite the court order, agents of the lessor are colluding with AeroContractors to allegedly flout the court order.
The aircraft, two Dash-8 Q-300s with registration 5N-MSN 61TBB with 3 and 5N-TBC with MS 614, according to managing director of Top Brass Aviation, Roland Iyayi are still being tampered with at the Aero Contractors hangar despite a restraining order in 2015 which provided basis for the contempt charges.
However, Iyayi in a chat with reporters at the weekend alleged that the two aircraft are still being tampered with at the Aero Hangar.
According to Iyayi, the brake pad of the aircraft has been changed.
He said the propeller assembly of the aircraft has been removed and is awaiting replacement for ferry out of the country.
Iyayi said, ”As at today pictures are being sent to us on what is going on at Aero and we are taking that again as further affidavits to court, to tell the court that despite the fact that we had a sitting two days ago, which would have been a contempt proceeding sitting, they are still tampering with the aircraft at Aero Hangar which is in violation of the order. We are going back to court with all the evidence because it is not good enough to speak; the idea is to show evidence. And indeed anytime we filed in court we have shown photographic evidence.”
“As I speak, 30 minutes ago, someone under the aircraft told me they had removed the propeller from one of the engines, the engine stand was there with the view of changing the engine. Two weeks ago, the brake unit of this aircraft was removed and replaced, all of these reports were given to me and continue to be given to me by Aero Contractors staff, working on the aircraft.”
“We actually approached the courts when all these were happening to ask for an exparte order that the aircraft be taken away from Aero hangar, possession of aircraft taken by the police, the IGP, AIG Airport and Commissioner of Police Airport, to take physical possession of the aircraft, secure it at a location at the airfield and report to the court about the security and safety of the aircraft pending the determination of the case.
An official of AeroContractors who spoke on conditions of anonymity denied tampering with the aircraft.
He confirmed that though the disputed aircraft is in its facility, but said allegations of tampering were misleading. He said the aircraft will be handed over to whoever the court declares as legitimate owner.
Officials of FAAN, NCAA declined to comment on the matter, because it is in court.