The senator representing Rivers South-east Senatorial District, Barinada Mpigi, has said the defence of the aviation minister, Hadi Sirika, over the Caverton Helicopter imbroglio is unacceptable and unfortunate.
The state government had earlier barred vehicles and flights from entering as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus.
The pilots were subsequently arraigned at a magistrate court and remanded in prison until May.
On Wednesday evening, Nyesom Wike, the state governor, ordered Caverton to leave the state.
Caverton, a logistics company which provides support services for oil and gas companies in Nigeria, had kicked against the action, saying aviation authorities granted it the permission to fly into Rivers. This was confirmed by the minster.
An angry minister, while reacting, said the state governor acted illegally adding that besides the federal government “no other person had the legal rights to legislate on civil aviation.”
But in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Mpigi noted that the minister was aware of the fact that state governments all over the country, including Rivers State, have put in place stringent measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in their respective states.
“So we see the attempt by the Minister of Aviation to single out Rivers State for a contest of rights, without recourse to the state’s constitutional right to issue regulations towards combating the COVID-19 pandemic as an attempt by the federal government to sacrifice the lives and wellbeing of Rivers people on the altar of economic considerations. This is unacceptable, unfortunate and a detestable of dangerous politics.
“The Minister is in position to know that Whereas the federal government may be right in giving approval to Carveton helicopters fly in to Rivers State in pursuit of revenue, they also have the responsibility to protect the lives of Rivers people and those doing business in the state by considering the health implications of such approvals in the face of a raging COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The lawmaker also wondered why Mr Sirika did not consider it necessary “to put Rivers State Government into confidence as to their intentions in the interest of the public and if the minister is affirming the fear of Rivers people that the federal government values the revenues from Rivers State over and above their lives.”
Mr Mpigi reminded the minister that the same way the federal government reserves the right to approve flights for revenue purposes, “the state governor also reserves the constitutional right to protect the lives of Rivers people”.
“It is on record that Carveton Helicopters has the unenviable reputation of repudiating the policies and positions of the Rivers State government. We, therefore, see any legal and logical step of the Governor to stop their current deliberate moves aimed at endangering the lives of Rivers people as appropriate and commendable.
“We in the Rivers South-East Senatorial District and indeed all Rivers people are strongly in support of the proactive and decisive efforts Mr Wike in the fight against COVID-19, including his ban of the activities of Carveton Helicopters in the State. We have explicit confidence in his quality leadership and uncommon capacity in the management of the affairs of Rivers especially, his patriotic desire to protect Rivers people from the deadly covid-19 pandemic,” he added.