air operators to boycott rivers over detention of members. Your members are in a hotel not in prison

Air Operators of Nigeria, AON, Wednesday threatened to stop all flights operations to Rivers State for three months if the remanded pilots of Caverton Helicopters are not released by the governor of the state, Mr Nyasom Wike.

A statement by the chairman of AON, Captain Nogie Meggisson read: “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”.

Pilots Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari

“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.”

But on Thursday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike had led a team to arrest the pilots for flying people into the state amidst Coronavirus lockdown said two pilots of Caverton Helicopters remanded in prison by a Magistrate Court in the state were not in prison but in a government hotel.

The two pilots, Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari, were remanded at the Port Harcourt Custodial Centre on Tuesday.

But the Federal Government had bashed Wike for arresting the two pilots and the passengers for flying into the State during Coronavirus lockdown.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Wednesday, said the Federal Government duly granted Caverton Helicopters the right to fly into Rivers.

He said the Police Commissioner and the Commander of the Air Force Base in Port Harcourt would have to answer for alleged incompetence and for going with Wike to arrest the pilots.

However, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, the Rivers state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, who disclosed this, said the step was taken to protect inmates at the Port Harcourt Correction Centre adding that the movement was after a Chief Magistrate Court granted his request for variation order on the detention of the pilots

“Whilst the Honourable Attorney-General of Rivers State would ordinarily not want to discuss on radio any matter pending before a Court of competent jurisdiction, it has become necessary to correct the misinformation being circulated that the two Pilots arraigned before the Chief Magistrates Court, Port Harcourt, on Monday, 7 April 2020 are being remanded a the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre.

“The truth of the matter is that the Honorable Attorney-General of Rivers State applied for and obtained a variation Order from the Chief Magistrate Court, Port Harcourt changing the place of remand from The Port Harcourt Correctional Centre to any Rivers State Government-owned facility or building including Delta Hotels, GRA Port Harcourt.

“Based on that Order of variation of the remand order, the two pilots are being remanded at Delta Hotels, GRA Port Harcourt and are attended to regularly by medical personnel attached to the Rivers State COVID-19 medical team,” he said in a statement.

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