COVID-19: Caverton seeks FG’s intervention in release of pilots arrested by Rivers Govt.

…says airline secured approval to operate essential services


Posted by Sade Williams


Caverton helicopters has appealed to Federal government to prevail upon Rivers State government to release the pilots it arrested today at the airline base in Port-Harcourt from prison custody, saying the company secured approval from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to carry out essential services.


The Travelport gathered that two Caverton Helicopter Pilots, Samuel Urgoji and Samuel Buhari who were arrested by Rivers State Govt Task Force on Covid 19 for flying some people  into Rivers State were arraigned in a Chief with charge no PMC/532C/2020 on 4 count charge of disobedience to order of rivers state Govervment.


It was gathered that they were remanded in prison till 19 May 2020 when their trial will commence. The Chief Magistrate D. D. Ihua-Maduenyi ordered that medical test be carried out on them to ascertain their status.


The Travelport learnt that Superintendent of Police Gladys Imegu Enoho, Officer-in-Charge, Legal, Rivers State Police command is the prosecuting counsel. Rivers State Attorney General, Zacheus Adango was also in court


Explaining its side of the story, Caverton management said: At the start of the COVID -19 lockdown, we received a letter from our client stating that they have been given approval/ exemption to fly and continue operations. We (Caverton along with three other companies) also received approval from the Minister of Aviation to fly only essential services, mainly in the Oil and Gas industry. Lastly, we got another approval from the Nigerian Civil Aviation  Authority (NCAA) to fly for this same oil and gas sector. We have been flying along these guidelines for the past seven days.


“Today, we were informed that the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike was coming to address the operators in Port Harcourt and our people waited. But on arriving, the governor directed two of our pilots to be taken to CID where they were told to write statements.


“Despite all pleas by our lawyers who showed all the relevant documents, they were taken to the magistrate court and charged. At the court, our lawyers also presented all the documentations approving us to fly by the federal government but the case was closed and the pilots have been remanded in Port Harcourt prison till the 19th May.


“We appeal to the Federal government to urge the Rivers State government to release our pilots who violated no law and are being unduly punished for reasons we still do not understand”, the airline said.


Responding, the national president of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), comrade Galadima Abednego while commending the concerted efforts of the Federal government in ensuring Nigerians are well protected from the ravaging corona virus, however observed with dismay why innocent Pilots who are on the frontline complementing government efforts will suffer unnecessary humiliation and harassment for doing a service that is essential and vital to the survival of the Nations economy.


“It is a fact that the flight was duly authorized by all agencies involved from the point of law, one wonders why power tussle between Federal and state will override national interest.  At this juncture, NAAPE deems the actions of Rivers state government as an unwarranted attack on our members is left with no other option than to demand an immediate release of the pilots and an apology from His execellency the Executive Governor of Rivers state, failing which we will direct all pilots both local and International to boycott flying into Rivers state now and post lock down” .

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