* says detained pilots not in correctional centre
The Rivers State Government on Thursday sealed off Caverton Helicopters office located inside the Nigerian Air Force base in Port Harcourt.
The Chairman, Obio Akpor Local Government Area of the state, Mr Abel Solomon Eke, effected the closure of the company’s premises following a directive on Wednesday by the state governor, Nyesom Wike.
Our reporter learnt that Mr. Eke, who stormed the Caverton’s office with some policemen, said he was in their premises to carry out the instructions given to him by the state governor.
Sources from the company, who craved anonymity, said the Council chairman told the company’s staff to vacate the office premises immediately.
Daily Trust reports that Governor Wike had on Wednesday taken the company to court for violating the state government’s Executive Order restricting movements and travels into the state.
Two pilots of the company, Capts Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari, as well as 10 passengers on board the aircraft were arrested and arraigned before a Port Harcourt Magistrate Court on a four-count charge of contravening the state’s Executive Order on travel ban.
The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge preferred against them by the State.
They were, however, ordered by the court to be remanded at any government facility to enable medical personnel from the State carry out test to determine their coronavirus (COVID-19) status.
Meanwhile, the state’s Commissioner for Justice , Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, has denied that the two Caverton pilots are being remanded at Port Harcourt Correctional Centre.
A statement issued in Port Harcourt on Thursday by the commissioner said that he 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 Rivers State Government-owned facility inside the Delta Hotels in Port Harcourt.
He said the two pilots were remanded at the Delta Hotels and are being attended to regularly by medical personnel attached to the Rivers State COVID-19 medical team.
“Base on that order of variation of the remand order, the two pilots were remanded at Delta Hotels and attended to regularly by medical personnel attached to the Rivers state COVID-19 medical team. None of the two pilots spent a second at Port Harcourt Correctional Centre,” he said.
He pointed out that the state government cares about the health and safety of Rivers people and residents as well as the inmates of the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre.
But the Airport Operators of Nigeria (AON) has given the state government a 24-hour ultimatum to release the Caverton pilots or face boycott of all flight operations into the state capital for a period of three months.
The association, in a statement signed by its Chairman, Capt. Nogie Meggison, said the pilots secured all necessary approvals from the ministry of Aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in line with the protocols for exemption of essential flights as issued by NCAA.
The Airline Operators, however, urged the state government to drop its charges against the pilots and release them so that they can re-unite with their families.
Daily Trust reports that the issue has generated war of words between the State and the ministry of Aviation.