Caverton Helicopters has asked the federal government to prevail on the Rivers state government to release two of its pilots detained over alleged illegal flight operations.
According to a statement by the aircraft, two of its pilots were arrested and charged to court on Tuesday on the orders of Nyesom Wike, the governor.
It explained that while the federal government banned flight operations, the aircraft was given permission to continue operations for the oil and gas sector.
It added that despite the approval it got from ministry of aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), its pilots, who tendered relevant documents, were charged to a magistrate’s court and remanded in custody till May 19.
A copy of the approval granted the aircraft by the NCAA allowed the company to provide support services to the oil and gas sector for an initial period of three months effective April 1.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
“Lastly, we got another approval from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to fly for this same oil and gas sector. We have been flying along 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’s 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.
“We appeal to the federal government to urge the Rivers State government to release our pilots who violated no law and are being unduly punished for reasons we still do not understand.”
In the charge sheet, the pilots identified as Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari, pilot and co-pilot respectively, and some “others now at large”, were accused of conducting themselves in a “manner likely to cause a breach of peace by flying and discharging passengers from the Twin-Otter Caverton Helicopters at the Air Force Base”.