By Kingsley Omonobi

Abuja- A $130million dollar contract for the upgrading, rehabilitation and supply of spare parts for the Nigeria Airforce L39ZA trainer aircraft is now causing a major disagreement between the Air Force and the manufacturers of the aircraft, following allegations that the NAF authorities are planning to divert funds budgeted for the aircraft repairs to other uses including re-awarding it to another company thereby risk arbitration.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that the contract for the upgrading, rehabilitation and supply of spares for 19 units of the trainer aircraft was awarded to the equipment manufacturers, AERO VODOCHODY, of Czech Republic in 2007 at a cost of $130.024 million by the Federal Government.

However, problems of funding and repeated appraisals and re-appraisals by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), and the Airforce have stalled the contract.

When the issues were brought to the knowledge of the late President Yar’Adua, he was said to have queried MOD why it was not consummated as further delay could paint the nation in bad light.

He consequently directed that if funding was the problem, provision should be made for it in the 2010 budget to start repairing, upgrading and getting spares for the aircraft in phases.  This prompted the inclusion and approval of the sum of N1. 06billion in the budget.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that it is this money budgeted for the L39ZA aircraft that is now the bone of contention as the NAF headquarters has allegedly concluded plans to re-award the contract to an American firm.

However, the manufacturers of the aircraft are insisting that American company has no authority whatsoever to carry out overhaul on the aircraft.

Infact, at a presentation made to one of the committees which included senior NAF officers, Sunday Vanguard gathered that observations raised by the Nigeria Airforce, on the inclusion of upgrade of avionics, ejection systems, installation of zero-to-zero capability ejection seats, APU etc, into the cost of the rehabilitation, was well taken as the Czech firm consented to carry out all the aforementioned observation at no additional cost.

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