The federal government said Wednesday that the two Caverton Helicopters pilots arrested in Rivers state by Governor Nyesome Wike over lockdown violation were duly authorized to fly.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika while briefing journalists in Abuja.
He said the state Commissioner of Police and the Commander of Air Force Base in Port Harcourt that witnessed the arrest of the pilots exhibited dangerous ignorance and lack of competence and would have to answer for their actions. He said: “On whether we gave the arrested pilots approval to fly, civil aviation is on exclusive list item number three there. So no other person but the federal government has authority to legislated upon. So also is the Nigerian Airforce, Armed Forces are also on exclusive list, there is no other person that has the legal rights to legislate upon.
“The Air Force officer who jumped the commander in Chief and ignored, also jumped the Chief of Defence staff and ignored, who jumped the Chief of Air Staff and ignored, to call a governor to come into the property of the Federal Government of Nigeria to make an arrest, exhibited dangerous ignorance and incompetence grossly.
“The police that followed the governor to go in there exhibited dangerous ignorance from our perspective in civil aviation.
“Whether we gave approval for the flight, yes we did and we did in national interest. All of these flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary.
“Those flights by Caverton, Aero Contractor, Arik, Bristo and were for national interest and improved national revenue. At a time where oil has gone below $30 per barrel and the cost of production is $30.
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“In the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari he thought that this be allowed so that the nation will not be crippled and national revenue will not be lost. It was against this background that we have the authority and being exclusively on the exclusive list and we have the powers in civil aviation, guided by the Civil Aviation act 2016 approved such flights.
“Those flights were approved lawfully, legally and correct. So yes, we will do everything lawful and legal and reasonable to get those pilots back and operations will continue in national interest.”