A former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, has faulted the claims made by his successor, Nyesom Wike, on the two armoured Bell helicopters impounded at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, by the Nigeria Customs Service.
Mr. Wike said on Saturday that the state government couldn’t take possession of the helicopters imported during Mr. Amaechi’s administration because of high cost of duties on them and the alleged refusal of the federal government to grant waiver.
Mr. Wike, who contradicted the customs’ claim that the helicopters were impounded, said he had written a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari asking that the federal government hand them over to the nation’s Air Force.
“We stated that we cannot pay the custom duties because the helicopters are not for commercial use; but to monitor the creeks and track criminals.
“In any case, where will the Rivers Government get money at this time to import armoured helicopters to which the previous administration imported because it had money (at the time),” the governor had said in a statement released by his spokesman, Simeon Nwakaudu.
But Mr. Amaechi said his successor wasn’t telling the whole truth about the helicopters.
Mr. Amaechi, who is the current Minister of Transportation, said ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration did not only encourage the purchase of the helicopters which were meant to fight militants, kidnappers and other criminals in the state, but had contributed $15 million (half of the total buying sum, he said) and also granted waivers to the state government.
The minister said Mr. Jonathan surprisingly later turned around to frustrate the Rivers government from taking possession of the helicopters because of politics.
He accused Mr. Wike of collaborating with the then federal administration to work against Rivers interest.
“The President Goodluck Jonathan administration frustrated and rebuffed all attempts by Amaechi and the Rivers State government to take possession of the helicopters,” the minister said in a statement he issued on Sunday through his media office.
“This strange twist was most baffling to the Rivers State government.
“Many would recall that Amaechi as Governor of Rivers State at different times cried out and spoke loudly about the refusal of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to allow the Rivers State government take possession of the security surveillance helicopters.
“It was about security, the safety of lives and property, but the Jonathan administration refused and bluntly blocked the Rivers State government from taking possession of the helicopters. The same helicopters the federal government had months back, partly funded and had granted approvals and waivers for the purchase and importation into the country.
“Then, as a minister in President Jonathan’s cabinet, Wike inundated President Jonathan with lies and fake stories of how then Governor Amaechi wanted to use the helicopters for Presidential campaigns against Jonathan, how Amaechi will use the helicopters to support President Jonathan’s opponents before and during the presidential elections and all sorts of concocted tales that created a false impression that the Amaechi government in Rivers State would use the helicopters against and to fight President Jonathan, and not to secure lives and property.”
“It is worrisome and indeed pathetic that Governor Nyesom Wike as usual, is again playing politics with the safety and security of Rivers people.
“The helicopters were procured by the Amaechi administration to curb the wanton menace of criminals in the state (which has since worsened under Wike’s watch), but in his usual habit, Governor Wike has decided to abandon and dump the helicopters, because he does not care about the safety and security of lives and property in the state,” the minister said.