The Nigeria Aviation Agency said there was “a shoddy handling of Oshiomole’s flight.”
Nigerian aviation authorities have blamed the pilot that flew Governor Adams Oshiomhole, for the stoppage of the governor’s flight on Friday afternoon.
In a statement by the General Manager, Public Affairs of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Supo Atobatele, the agency said Captain Vame Manahash should be blamed for the incident of Friday afternoon.
Mr. Oshiomhole’s chartered helicopter was ordered to return to Benin by NAMA after take-off to Anambra where the governor was travelling to for the burial of the wife of a presidential aide. The pilot returned to Benin and made the necessary payments he was asked to. Over an hour after, the helicopter was still not cleared for take-off making the angry governor walk away from the terminal and cancel his trip, the pilot told journalists.
The aviation agency, however, blamed Mr. Manahash for failing to file a flight manifest and plan in what it described as “a shoddy handling of Oshiomole’s flight.”
Mr. Atobatele said the pilot, flying the helicopter marked 5N-BPX AS335 and operated by OAS helicopters, called from the Edo State government house that he would be airlifting to Awka, Anambra state. He said the pilot was informed of the need for an official documentation for safety and security of people on board.
The spokesperson said that Mr. Manahash, in what would have taken only three minutes initially, refused with an excuse that he was flying the governor to Awka for an important meeting even after being advised to airlift directly from the airport. The pilot took off from the Government House in Benin.
The spokesman said that at about 10:18 a.m. when the helicopter landed at the airport after it was asked to, Mr. Manahash went straight to Aeronautical Information Service with a claim that he did not know the names of those on board his flight; causing NAMA officials to act the way they did.
“NAMA officials in line with requirements for safety and security moved quickly to ensure that the pilot complied with the flight procedure and this lasted for 30 minutes. The said helicopter needed to file in a flight plan because it is billed to operate in a controlled airspace where it would be expected for the pilot to yield to air traffic controllers’ instructions,” Mr. Atobatele said
He also claimed that the Airforce commandant, Benin Airport, UJ Atiku, had also advised Mr. Manahash on the need to file in necessary papers as professionally required.
Mr. Atobatele also claimed that Mr. Oshiomhole never allowed the Airspace Manager opportunity to explain the cause of the delay, claiming the Air Station Manager, ASM, was verbally assaulted.
“Amidst of all these, the governor sought to speak with the Airspace Manager on the cause of delay. The ASM was never given chance to explain the need to observe mandatory procedures for safety and security, rather was verbally assaulted severally while trying to explain the primary reason for the delay,” he said.
NAMA denied any political motive for the delay of the governor’s flight saying the pilot had since apologised to its officials pleading that the incident should not be filed against him.
In his initial reaction to the incident, Mr. Oshiomhole’s spokesperson, Kassim Afegbua, accused the aviation agency of acting a script of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“I think the government of the day is competing with too many crises and it is disturbing that governors are no longer respected or recognized even in their own domain when it is known that they were duly elected by the people,” he said.
“How else do you explain the role of a NAMA clerk who grounded the governor’s aircraft and prevented him from keeping his appointment in Anambra State because he is acting out a script that has become the rule of engagement by a dictatorial PDP regime? We remain unprovoked because we are civilized people.”
Mr. Oshiomhole, a member of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, has been having a war of words with the PDP who accused him of begging to join the ruling party on different occasions. He is also among the governors that supported Rotimi Amaechi to emerge chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum against the wishes of the PDP, and allegedly the presidency.