Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART), a professional pressure group in the industry, have condemned the actions of the Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State and the security operatives involved in the unlawful arrest, and detention of two Caverton Helicopters Pilots in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
Sirika who addressed the media on Wednesday said the Police and the Air Force officers who arrested the Caverton pilots on the order of the Rivers State Government exhibited gross ignorance adding that the governor lacked the powers to enforce the arrest.
ART in a press release signed by Olumide Ohunayo a member of the body, said it condemn the purported sham prosecution and trial orchestrated by the Rivers State Government at a time when courts have been placed on lockdown by the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
He said: “The Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) condemns unequivocally the actions of the governor of Rivers State- Nyesom Wike and the security operatives involved in the unlawful arrest, humiliation and detention in Port Harcourt on Tuesday April 7th 2020 of two Caverton Helicopters Pilots.
“We also condemn the purported sham prosecution and trial orchestrated by the Rivers State Government at a time when courts have been placed on lockdown by the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“While we noted and acknowledge the deadly nature of the Coronavirus currently ravaging the global community and the need for all hands to be on deck in the fight to contain its spread, we condemn in totality, the flagrant disregard of the authorisation, approvals including exemption granted Caverton Helicopters and other operators of essential services by the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority.
“These reckless actions are capable of leading to a situation of anarchy which the nation cannot afford at these challenging times.
“ART equally urges the federal authorities to guard against possible abuse of the exemptions and approvals of flights in order not to erode the efficacy of the efforts of those charged with the containment of the spread of COVD -19 and the violation of the lockdown imposed in their various areas of responsibility.
“We also urge all aviation operators granted dispensation to carry out essential services to collaborate and support the efforts of their host state governments in the bid to contain the scourge of Coronavirus- 19.
“We therefore demand an immediate unconditional release from custody of the two Caverton Helicopters Pilots namely: Capts Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari and a withdrawal of the charges preferred against them without further delay.
“ART believes that the positions highlighted above could help resolve the matter without prejudice to the rights of any of the parties concerned. We are also of view that notwithstanding the prevalent emergency, it was imperative for governors and other public officers to refrain from actions that are beyond their powers.”