The Rivers state governor, Chibuike Amaechi has attributed the deplorable state of the Port Harcourt international airport to the negligence of the Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, who he said “abandoned the airport”.
“I have gone to the President and told the President that because of the disagreement between Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (who is not Rivers state) and the president, the minister of aviation has abandoned the airport.”
The Governor went further to state that the airport would be easy target for terrorists should they think of bombing it, adding that “we survive by the grace of God.”
He accused the minister of impounding his plane “for no reason” and that the aircraft was grounded because of his disagreement with the President.
“The minister of aviation is reckless for that,” he said.
Similarly, Amaechi has also accused the minister of being the stumbling block which has not allowed his administration put in place certain measures which will benefit the state.
“We paid for two helicopters (surveillance helicopters) that would fly around Rivers state (and detect crime) including oil theft and report real time to police, air force, army and the government house” but “she refused the helicopters from coming”.
“They are there in America and the government of America has been wondering why we don’t want to take our plane and the President (of Nigeria) is aware”.
The Ministry of Aviation has revealed that facts available to the ministry suggests that the operators of the bombardier aircraft allegedly belonging to the Rivers state government obtained several flight clearances from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authorities (NCAA) using forged documentation.
A statement by the Special Assistant on media to the Minister of Aviation on Thursday says that “the said aircraft attempted to and did operate within the Nigerian airspace on the 26th of April 2013 without any flight clearance whatsoever in total violation of all extant civil aviation laws and regulations.”
The statement adds that “there is also the matter of the coat of arms and identity of the government of Rivers state being emblazoned and displayed on the aircraft in question, when there is no record or evidence of the state government’s ownership, lease, or other recognized legal or beneficial interest in the aircraft presented to or filed before the civil regulatory authorities.”
The statement further adds that “available records indicate that the aircraft is currently registered to Bank of Utah trustee until 30th of September 2015”, and such registration is not transferable.
The ministry has therefore directed a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the actual ownership of the aircraft in question.
It stated that upon conclusion of these internal investigations, it will take all necessary steps required by law.
Controversies surround the ownership of the aircraft grounded by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authorities (NCAA) over the weekend as the Rivers state government insist it owns the aircraft while the Federal Airport Authority (FAAN) claims the plane belongs to the Bank of Salt Lake City USA and was brought into the country on chatter by Carveton Helicopters.
FAAN’s spokesperson, Mr Yakubu Datti, also insisted that the aviation authorities have no business dealing with the Rivers state government because they are in talks with the owners of the plane, the Bank of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Speaking on our breakfast program, Sunrise Daily, Mr Datti, said it was wrong for a foreign registered aircraft to fly into the country and embark on domestic shuttles without notifying the aviation authorities.
He said the authorities had no information that the rivers state government was operating the said aircraft.
Mr Datti further stated that from investigations the aircraft had flown to airports beyond Owerri and Akure that were not captured in the documentation they submitted while coming into the country even after the expiration of the permit.
Rejecting the claim that the Rivers state government was operating an illegal aircraft in the Nigerian airspace, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Ibim Semenitari, said the state government has been abiding by the regulations of the country and does not have a history of disobeying it.
She added that necessary waivers of the flight in question have been sent to the appropriate authorities.