Airlines, pilots issue 24 hours ultimatum to Wike to release pilots

• Or risk withdrawal of services to state henceforth

Airline operators, pilots and engineers in the country have given Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State twenty-four hours ultimatum on his decision to detain two pilots working with Caverton Helicopters, to either release the pilots or risk boycott of flight operations in the state even after the end of the lockdown.

The first to give this ultimatum which ends today is the umbrella body of airlines in the country, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON). In a statement signed and issued by the chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison, he called for the immediate release of the two Caverton pilots.

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The operators condemned the “arrest and taking into custody in handcuffs by the Rivers State Government on the order of Wike for allegedly flouting the COVID-19 lockdown order in the state. The Airline Operators of Nigeria condemns the move in the strongest term and considers it very unlawful in the face of the fact that the airline had secured all necessary approvals from the Ministry of Aviation and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the flight in line with the protocols for exemption of essential flights as issued by the NCAA.”

The operators also frowned at what they described as “the crude action because the pilots were only doing their lawful duties which were also in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Exemption Order of the oil and gas sector during the shutdown exercise.

“Aviation is under the Exclusivity List of the Federal Government and the Port Harcourt NAF Base is a Federal Government entity outside the jurisdiction of the Rivers State Government.

“The Airline Operators of Nigeria hereby demands the immediate and unconditional release of the two pilots with all purported charges dropped so that they can go back to their families for the Easter holidays and return to their jobs.

“However, should the Rivers State Government fail to release the pilots within 24 hours, Airlines in the country will be forced to boycott all scheduled and unscheduled commercial and private flight operations, including oil and gas offshore flight services, into Port Harcourt for a period of three months.”

Similarly, the body of pilots and aircraft engineers in the country, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots Engineers (NAAPE), has described the action of the Rivers Governor as an unwarranted attack on its two members.

NAAPE in its submission declared: “We observed with dismay while innocent pilots who are on the frontline complimenting government efforts will suffer unnecessary humiliation and harassment for doing a service that is essential and vital to the survival of the nation’s economy.

“We demand the immediate release of the pilots and an apology from the governor, failing which we will direct all pilots both local and international to boycott flying into Rivers State now and post lockdown.”

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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