Two pilots working with Caverton Helicopters Ltd, who were arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Tuesday, for flying an aircraft into the state, have been remanded in Port Harcourt prison.
The police spokesperson in Rivers, Nnamdi Omoni, who disclosed this to PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday morning, said the pilots were arraigned before a magistrate on Tuesday and charged with disobedience to lawful order – order of the governor on the restriction of movement or flight because of coronavirus.
Mr Omoni said 10 other persons, who were in the flight, were also charged to court.
They are to remain in prison custody till May 19.
Caverton, a logistics company, provides support services for oil and gas companies in Nigeria, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Total, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron.
Mr Wike, who has barred vehicles and flights from entering Rivers as a preventive measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus, said the pilots “illegally” flew an aircraft belonging to Caverton into the state.
The governor has been insisting that people flying into Rivers must subject themselves to health check to ascertain if they are positive or not to the coronavirus.
“Nobody says that you can’t go to any state but now we are in a war situation,” a Government House statement quoted the governor as saying, while reacting to the development. “This COVID-19 is even worse than a conventional war.”
Mr Wike said he does not have the right to close the airport in Rivers but that he has the right to prevent people from entering the state.
Caverton’s management, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said the company has not violated any law. It appealed for the intervention of the federal government in the matter.
“At the start of the COVID -19 lockdown, we received a letter from our client stating that they have been given approval/ exemption to fly and continue operations.
“We (Caverton along with three other companies) also received approval from the Minister of Aviation to fly only essential services, mainly in the Oil and Gas industry.
“Lastly, we got another approval from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to fly for this same oil and gas sector. We have been flying along with these guidelines for the past seven days.
“Today, we were informed that the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike was coming to address the operators in Port Harcourt and our people waited. But on arriving, the governor directed two of our pilots to be taken to CID where they were told to write statements.
“Despite all pleas by our lawyers who showed all the relevant documents, they were taken to the magistrate court and charged.
“At the court, our lawyers also presented all the documentations approving us to fly by the federal government but the case was closed and the pilots have been remanded in Port Harcourt prison till the 19th May,” the company said