The Federal Government Tuesday threatened to drag the Rivers State Government before any of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies over allegations that the state administration forged documents to enable its aircraft operate within the country.
This threat was issued Tuesday by the Minister of Aviation Princess Stella Oduah when she appeared before the House of Representatives Joint Committees on Justice and Aviation which held an investigative hearing on the circumstances surrounding the controversial grounding of a Rivers State Government owned aircraft last month.
It would be recalled that on April 26th, a Bombardier B700 Global Express aircraft said to belong to the Rivers State Government which had conveyed the state Governor Hon. Rotimi Amaechi to Akure Airport was delayed by NCAA and eventually grounded by the regulatory agency some days later.
Princess Oduah further stated that Rivers State Government violated existing civil aviation laws in the country by operating the aircraft without valid airworthiness or legal certificate adding that the aircraft was registered in the name of Bank of Utah Trustees of the United States it secured flight clearances in the name of Caverton Helicopters on three occasions.
She further stated that even though, the plane bore the Nigerian coat of arms, there was no evidence before the aviation regulatory agencies that it belonged to the Rivers State Government.
According to her the state government could be charged for “Using the name of Caverton Helicopters for flight clearance severally on 4th-6th January 2013; 23rd-27th January 2013 and 28th March-2nd April, 2013, which Caverton Helicopters rebutted, thus violating section 1.2..5 (a) (I)(2) of the NCAA Regulations on general policies, procedures and definitions and Section 1.14 of 2009, on falsification, reproduction or alteration of applications, licences, certificates, logbooks, reports or records.”
She further stated that on April 26, 2013, the pilot of the aircraft failed to submit a flight plan contrary to the nation’s aviation laws.
The Minister further disclosed that the Pilot of the aircraft knew he violated the law and had since apologised to her through a text message.
The minister’s position was supported by the Acting Director-General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Mr. J. D. Nkemakolam and other parastatals under the ministry.
However, in his own presentation before the Committee, the Secretary to the Rivers State Government George Feyii said no prior notice was served on the State Government before the aircraft was grounded adding that the plane was insured in the name of the State Government. He explained that the aircraft was registered through Bank of Utah which was appointed as Trustee for the aircraft.
He further said that the state government had last year applied to the Ministry of Aviation for permission to import an aircraft. He further stated that the aircraft had a certificate of airworthiness always kept within the plane.
But the Chairman of the Joint House Committee Hon. Ali Ahmed(PDP-Kwara) reminded the Minister that a letter written to the Director, Airworthiness Standards, NCAA, by ACASS of Canada Limited, a company with expertise in taking delivery of aircraft for clients had informed NCAA that they “assisted the government of Rivers State of Nigeria with taking delivery and possession of their Aircraft “.
Members of the Committee, notably Hon. Nkoyo Toyo(PDP-Cross River), were angry that contrary to an earlier statement by a Manager of Caverton Helicopters, Mr. Sola Falola that “they did not have anything to do with the importation of the aircraft” for the government of Rivers State, the same caverton admitted in another submission before the committee that the importation was done and that the aircraft in question belongs to the Rivers State Government.