The Federal Government on Saturday intensified its attack on the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, with the National Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, banning the Rivers State-owned bombardier aircraft from flying in Nigeria’s airspace again.
Mr. Amaechi has been having a running battle with the presidency over his stance on major national issues and his plane was on Friday temporarily prevented from leaving the Akure Airport. A spokesperson for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, later told PREMIUM TIMES the plane was blocked from taking off because the pilot failed to declare the flight manifest.
But at a press conference in Lagos Saturday, Benedict Adeyinka, NCAA’s director of airworthiness and standards, announced the suspension of the plane from Nigeria’s airspace, saying its clearance certificate had since expired.
“The controversial aircraft on the service of Governor Rotimi Amaechi is operating illegally in the country” Mr Adeyinka said. “The aircraft, a bombardier –BD700, global express with registration no N565 RS has its clearance approval expired since Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013.”
He continued, “By our records, the last flight clearance for this aircraft was approved for operation on Thursday, March 28, 2013 on Accra-PH –Accra and to terminate on April 2, 2013. With this development, the aircraft has exceeded the extra two days or 48 hours leeway for it to leave the country.”
The NCAA official further noted that “while still operating illegally, the aircraft has been sighted in several places including Owerri and Akure.”
“The owner of this aircraft according to the certificate of registration is Bank of Utah, trustee of Salt Lake City, Utah USA. The clearance for the aircraft was sought by Caverton Helicopters on March 27, 2013. Consequently, this aircraft in reference is hereby grounded at any airport that is located right now in the country.”
The presidency and the top brass of the Peoples Democratic Party had of late become uncomfortable with Mr. Amaechi who is believed to be leading a massive opposition against Chairman Bamanga Tukur and President Goodluck Jonathan. He is also accused of using his post to strategically position himself as vice-presidential candidate of the party in the coming presidential election.
In late February, the ruling party formed the PDP Governors’ Forum, led by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, in what analysts see as a last gasp effort by Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Tukur to dilute the perceived growing political influence of Mr. Amaechi, who was elected chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum in June 2011 for an initial two-year term.