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Wike shuts Caverton Helicopters offices in Rivers State

Wike


Wike shuts Caverton Helicopters offices in Rivers State

…..AON threatens withdrawal of flights to Port Harcourt

The governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has declared Caverton Helicopters a persona non grata in Rivers State and ordered all its offices in the state shut.

It would be recalled that on Tuesday, April 7, two pilots working for the company were arrested after they flew a helicopter into Port Harcourt in the wake of the coronavirus disease lockdown.

After their arrest, the pilots were subsequently arraigned before magistrate’s court on a four-count charge of contravening the state government’s executive order on travel ban in the state.

They were subsequently remanded in prison until May 19.

In a state-wide broadcast yesterday, the governor said his administration would do whatever is required to ensure that no business is unduly affected by the measures it had taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

He said the state government will not welcome businesses or companies that value their business activities and profits in clear disregard of the lives and health of the people of the state.

“By its actions, Caverton Helicopters has clearly shown that Rivers lives do not matter to it. It is an enemy of Rivers people and is hereby declared persona non grata in Rivers State.

“With this declaration, Caverton Helicopters can only chose to operate in any part of Rivers State at its own risk as Local Government Chairmen have been directed to close their offices and prevent their operations,” he said.

He said airline’s insensitive and provocative actions took place amidst credible intelligence reports about plans by those he described as ‘the enemies of the state’ to traffic carriers of the dreaded coronavirus into the state.

“Their morbid intention is to create panic by pushing up the infection rate and rubbish the robust measures we have since put in place to cut off the spread of the virus and keep our state and our citizens safe and secured from the ravaging pandemic.

“As expected, and required by our laws, the crew and the passengers on board that ill-fated helicopter were promptly arrested by the law enforcement personnel and are being prosecuted before our courts in line with our COVID-19 Declarations and Containment Orders.

“Caverton Helicopters claimed to have gotten permits from some federal agencies to fly passengers into the state, which never bothered to take the state government into confidence in issuing such permits in violation of our laws and containment orders.

“While federal agencies reserve the right to issue flight permits to airline operators to fly into Rivers State, we insist that the state government must equally be informed and taken into confidence in the process.

“This is the only way to avoid suspicion, conflicts of interests and unnecessary bickering between the State and Federal Governments in our collective efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“Let me reiterate that for us, COVID-19 in Rivers state is a matter of life and death, and we will never succumb to any blackmail from any person, institution or authority in our determination to protect our citizens and our State from the spread of this deadly virus,” Wike added.

In its reaction, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) threatened to instruct its members to stop all flights to Rivers State for three months if the remanded pilots of are not released.

Caverton Helicopters

“The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) hereby calls for the immediate release of two (2) Pilots of Caverton Helicopters that were recently arrested and taken into custody in handcuffs by the Rivers State Government for allegedly flouting the COVID19 Lockdown Order in the State.

“The Airline Operators Nigeria condemns the move in the strongest term and considers it very unlawful in the face of the fact that the airline had secured all necessary approvals from the Ministry of Aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the flight in line with the protocols for exemption of Essential flights as issued by the NCAA.

 “The AON also frowns at the crude action because the pilots were only doing their lawful duties which were also in line with President Muhammed Buhari’s Exemption Order of the Oil and Gas sector during the shutdown exercise.

“Aviation is under the Exclusivity List of the Federal Government and the Port Harcourt NAF Base is a Federal Government entity outside the jurisdiction of the Rivers State Government.

“The Airline Operators of Nigeria hereby demands the immediate and unconditional release of the two pilots with all purported charges dropped so that they can go back to their families for the Easter holidays and return to their jobs.

“However, should the Rivers State Government fail to release the pilots within 24 hours, Airlines in the country will be forced to boycott all schedule and unscheduled commercial and private flight operations, including oil and gas offshore flight services, into Port Harcourt for a period of three (3) months.

“We, therefore, hope our appeal for the immediate release of the pilots within 24 hours will be heeded by Rivers State Government otherwise Airlines in the country will have no other option than to completely boycott all operations into Port Harcourt,” said AON chairman, Capt. Nogie Meggison in a statement.

Meanwhile, the minister of aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, disagreed with Wike saying helicopter company had the federal government’s permission to fly.

Hadi Sirika

He said yesterday in Abuja at the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 briefing that civil aviation is on the exclusive list, just like Nigeria Air Force and the Armed Forces.

He said apart from the federal government “no other person had the legal rights to legislate on civil aviation”.

He explained that the exemption was part of strategies put in place by the federal government to rake in some revenue at this time of global oil price crisis, “of which the Rivers State is a beneficiary.”

“Civil aviation is on exclusive list item number three there. So no other person but the federal government has authority to legislate upon,” he said adding that the permission was granted to the pilots “as a matter of national interest.”

“Whether we have approval for the flight, yes we did and we did in national interest. All of these flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary.

“Those flights by Caverton, Aero Contractor, Arik, Bristow were for national interest and improved national revenue at a time when oil has gone below $30 per barrel and the cost of production is $30.

“In the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari, he thought that this be allowed so that the nation will not be crippled and national revenue will not be lost.

“It was against the background that we have the authority and being exclusively on the exclusive list and we have the powers in civil aviation, guided by the civil aviation act 2016 to approve such flights,” said Sirika.

AON threatens withdrawal of flights to Port Harcourt

The governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has declared Caverton Helicopters a persona non grata in Rivers State and ordered all its offices in the state shut.

It would be recalled that on Tuesday, April 7, two pilots working for the company were arrested after they flew a helicopter into Port Harcourt in the wake of the coronavirus disease lockdown.

After their arrest, the pilots were subsequently arraigned before magistrate’s court on a four-count charge of contravening the state government’s executive order on travel ban in the state.

They were subsequently remanded in prison until May 19.

In a state-wide broadcast yesterday, the governor said his administration would do whatever is required to ensure that no business is unduly affected by the measures it had taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

He said the state government will not welcome businesses or companies that value their business activities and profits in clear disregard of the lives and health of the people of the state.

“By its actions, Caverton Helicopters has clearly shown that Rivers lives do not matter to it. It is an enemy of Rivers people and is hereby declared persona non grata in Rivers State.

“With this declaration, Caverton Helicopters can only chose to operate in any part of Rivers State at its own risk as Local Government Chairmen have been directed to close their offices and prevent their operations,” he said.

He said airline’s insensitive and provocative actions took place amidst credible intelligence reports about plans by those he described as ‘the enemies of the state’ to traffic carriers of the dreaded coronavirus into the state.

“Their morbid intention is to create panic by pushing up the infection rate and rubbish the robust measures we have since put in place to cut off the spread of the virus and keep our state and our citizens safe and secured from the ravaging pandemic.

“As expected, and required by our laws, the crew and the passengers on board that ill-fated helicopter were promptly arrested by the law enforcement personnel and are being prosecuted before our courts in line with our COVID-19 Declarations and Containment Orders.

“Caverton Helicopters claimed to have gotten permits from some federal agencies to fly passengers into the state, which never bothered to take the state government into confidence in issuing such permits in violation of our laws and containment orders.

“While federal agencies reserve the right to issue flight permits to airline operators to fly into Rivers State, we insist that the state government must equally be informed and taken into confidence in the process.

“This is the only way to avoid suspicion, conflicts of interests and unnecessary bickering between the State and Federal Governments in our collective efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“Let me reiterate that for us, COVID-19 in Rivers state is a matter of life and death, and we will never succumb to any blackmail from any person, institution or authority in our determination to protect our citizens and our State from the spread of this deadly virus,” Wike added.

In its reaction, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) threatened to instruct its members to stop all flights to Rivers State for three months if the remanded pilots of are not released.

“The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) hereby calls for the immediate release of two (2) Pilots of Caverton Helicopters that were recently arrested and taken into custody in handcuffs by the Rivers State Government for allegedly flouting the COVID19 Lockdown Order in the State.

“The Airline Operators Nigeria condemns the move in the strongest term and considers it very unlawful in the face of the fact that the airline had secured all necessary approvals from the Ministry of Aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the flight in line with the protocols for exemption of Essential flights as issued by the NCAA.

 “The AON also frowns at the crude action because the pilots were only doing their lawful duties which were also in line with President Muhammed Buhari’s Exemption Order of the Oil and Gas sector during the shutdown exercise.

“Aviation is under the Exclusivity List of the Federal Government and the Port Harcourt NAF Base is a Federal Government entity outside the jurisdiction of the Rivers State Government.

“The Airline Operators of Nigeria hereby demands the immediate and unconditional release of the two pilots with all purported charges dropped so that they can go back to their families for the Easter holidays and return to their jobs.

“However, should the Rivers State Government fail to release the pilots within 24 hours, Airlines in the country will be forced to boycott all schedule and unscheduled commercial and private flight operations, including oil and gas offshore flight services, into Port Harcourt for a period of three (3) months.

“We, therefore, hope our appeal for the immediate release of the pilots within 24 hours will be heeded by Rivers State Government otherwise Airlines in the country will have no other option than to completely boycott all operations into Port Harcourt,” said AON chairman, Capt. Nogie Meggison in a statement.

Meanwhile, the minister of aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, disagreed with Wike saying helicopter company had the federal government’s permission to fly.

He said yesterday in Abuja at the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 briefing that civil aviation is on the exclusive list, just like Nigeria Air Force and the Armed Forces.

He said apart from the federal government “no other person had the legal rights to legislate on civil aviation”.

He explained that the exemption was part of strategies put in place by the federal government to rake in some revenue at this time of global oil price crisis, “of which the Rivers State is a beneficiary.”

“Civil aviation is on exclusive list item number three there. So no other person but the federal government has authority to legislate upon,” he said adding that the permission was granted to the pilots “as a matter of national interest.”

“Whether we have approval for the flight, yes we did and we did in national interest. All of these flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary.

“Those flights by Caverton, Aero Contractor, Arik, Bristow were for national interest and improved national revenue at a time when oil has gone below $30 per barrel and the cost of production is $30.

“In the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari, he thought that this be allowed so that the nation will not be crippled and national revenue will not be lost.

“It was against the background that we have the authority and being exclusively on the exclusive list and we have the powers in civil aviation, guided by the civil aviation act 2016 to approve such flights,” said Sirika.

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