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FG, Wike clash on arrested pilots, choppers

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THE Chief Magistrates Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has remanded the 10 passengers of the Twin-Otter Caventon Helicopter following their arraignment by the police.

  The passengers, who were flown into the state by two pilots through the Air Force Base, Port Harcourt, were reportedly arraigned before Chief Magistrate D. D. Ihua-Maduenyi on Wednesday.

  They were accused of contravening paragraph eight of the state’s Executive Order, which closed all borders as part of the ongoing measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the state.

  The defendants were arraigned on four-count charge of conspiracy and disobedience to lawful order.

  Though they pleaded not guilty to the charge, the court remanded them in any government facility to enable medical personnel determine their COVID status.

  The prosecution team is lead by the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Z. Adangor.

  The court on Tuesday remanded the two pilots that brought them in prison custody, for allegedly disobeying the Executive Order issued by the Rivers State Governor, NyesomWike.

  The court remanded the two pilots in the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre till May 19, 2020 when their trial would commence and also ordered that COVID-19 tests be carried out on them to ascertain their status.

  Meanwhile, Federal Government has reacted to the arrest of the two Caverton Helicopters Pilots for lockdown violation in Rivers State, saying they were duly authourised to do so in national interest.

  This is even as it described as it described the role by Police Commissioner, Mustapha Dandaura, and the Commander of the Air Force Base in Port Harcourt in the arrest as dangerous exhibition of ignorance and lack of competence, hinting that they would have to answer for their actions.

  Rivers State Governor, NyesomeWike had in an Executive Order signed on March 19 suspended flights to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Air Force Base and Bonny Airstrip beginning Thursday, March 26.

  Minister of Aviation, Senator HadiSirika, while responding to a question on whether the pilots were duly authorised to fly, said the federal government gave the approval in national interest and improved national revenue with Rivers State as sgreatest beneficiary.

  According to him, all necessary and constitutional actions on the matter would be taken.

  On whether we gave the arrested pilots approval to fly, civil aviation is on exclusive list item number three there. So no other person but the federal government has authority to legislated upon. So also is the Nigerian Airforce, Armed Forces are also on exclusive list, there is no other person that has the legal rights to legislate upon.

  So the Air Force officer who jumped the commander in Chief and ignored, also jumped the Chief of Defence staff and ignored, who jumped the Chief of Air Staff and ignored, to call a governor to come into the property of the Federal Government of Nigeria to make an arrest, exhibited dangerous ignorance and incompetence grossly. So the police that followed the governor to go in there exhibited dangerous ignorance from our perspective in civil aviation. “Whether we gave 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. So those flights by Caverton, Aero Contractor, Arik, Bristo and … were for national interest and improved national revenue. At a time where oil has gone below $30 per barrel and the cost of production is $30. In the wisdom of President MuhammaduBuhari he thought that this be allowed so that the nation will not be crippled and national revenue will not be lost.

  It was against this 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 approved such flights.

  Those flights were approved lawfully, legally and correct. So yes, we will do everything lawful and legal and reasonable to get those pilots back and operations will continue in national interest,” Sirika said

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