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Court Remands Two Pilots For Flying Expatriates Into Rivers

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A Port Harcourt Chief Magistrates’ Court, on Tuesday, remanded two pilots with the Caverton Helicopters, Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari, in a correctional centre for allegedly disobeying the Executive Order of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

The order had suspended flights into the state. The suspension of flights into the Port Harcourt International Airport, Air Force Base and other landing spaces in the state was aimed at checking the spread of coronavirus in the state.

Chief Magistrate D. D. Ihua-Maduenyi remanded the pilots in the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre till May 19, 2020, when their trial will commence.

Ihua-Maduenyi also ordered that the pilots be subjected to the COVID-19 test to ascertain their status.

The police arrested two pilots shortly after landing by the Rivers Taskforce on enforcement of directives against Coronavirus.

They were said to have been taken to the Rivers Police Command where Governor, Nyesom Wike visited them to assess the development.

The Governor was said to be worried that the identities of the expatriates were unknown and had demanded the company to fish them out to verify their medical status.

Wike had signed an executive order closing all land, air and sea borders as part of his numerous measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Rivers Police Commissioner, Mustapha Dandaura, who confirmed the development said that the command arrested the pilot and co-pilot of Carveton Helicopters who ferried unknown passengers to the State. He said that the pilots violated the regulations regarding the safety of the state.

He said: “Recall that when this coronavirus issues started, there was ban of local flight from coming into the State. Since that time we have been monitoring the activities of these private airlines.

“To our surprise, we received an intelligence report that an aircraft has landed at the Airforce base and that it was carrying some passengers. We have apprehended the Pilot and the Co-pilot by the NAF commander that’s why they alerted the chief executive Governor of the state who had given an order that on no account should any aircraft land on Rivers State without clearance.

“We don’t know the people they brought. Whether they are positive or negative of Coronavirus. Where are the heading to and where they came from

He commended Wike for his commitment to the protection of Rivers people.

He said: “To our surprise this morning this aircraft landed without any signal or permission from the authorities. We don’t know their mission here. Maybe they are coming here to sabotage the activities of the state and the security agencies that are putting efforts on ground to ensure that Rivers State enjoy peaceful atmosphere throughout this pandemic period”.

Wike declared his willingness to set aside his immunity to testify against persons violating the state’s border closure aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking at the office of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Wike said the two pilots of Carveton Helicopters operated illegally.

He said that the protection of Rivers people remained an important assignment that must be executed with the seriousness it deserved.

He said: “I am willing to drop my immunity as a governor as far as this case is concerned . I am ready to be a prosecution witness. ”

He charged the police to prosecute the matter to its logical conclusion to serve as deterrent to those interested in violating the regulations of the state regarding the fight against coronavirus.

He said: “I want to say this is a serious matter to us and police should handle it seriously. That’s why I am here at the state command to show the seriousness of this issue.

“No body says that you can’t go to any state but now we are in a war situation. This Covid-19 is even worse than a conventional war. We want to know who are those people you brought in, so that we have to trace them to know their identity and status. Luckily we have seen the pilot and the Co-pilot. They will assist the police to assist in identifying them”.

Wike reiterated that though the state government had no power to close airports, it had the right to check those coming into the state in order to ascertain their status.

He wondered why Carveton Helicopters decided to cut corners when the state government outlined the procedure for flying expatriates from Lagos into the state.

He said: “I have always said that we need the support of everybody. Nobody knows the status of those coming into Port Harcourt. Nobody knows whether they are positive or negative. I have said before that I don’t have right to close the airport. But I have the right of saying don’t enter my state because we want to know your status.

“The company wrote to us about bringing people which I forwarded to Commissioner of Police to perform security checks and the health officials to perform their duties before allowing them to come in. That is for those performing essential duties. But they decided to violate the regulations.”

Wike insisted that his administration was duty-bound to protect Rivers people from coronavirus.

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Minister Affirms Nigeria Air Will Take Off April 2022

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Nigeria’s national carrier, Nigeria Air, will take off by April 2022, Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation, said on Wednesday.

The minister announced the take-off date while briefing state house correspondents after the federal executive council (FEC) meeting at the presidential villa, Abuja.

He said the national carrier will be run by a company in which the Nigerian government will hold a five percent stake while Nigerian entrepreneurs will hold 46 percent.

He said the remaining 49 percent will be reserved for yet to be assigned strategic equity partners, including foreign investors.

Sirika said the national carrier, when operational, will create about 70,000 jobs for Nigerians.

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#EndSARS: Panel Affirmed Nine Killed, Four Missing, 24 Injured At Lekki Toll Gate

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No fewer than nine #EndSARS protesters were killed at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020.

This was contained in the report of the reports submitted by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for victims of SARS-related abuses and other matters obtained by our correspondent on Monday.

According to the report, nine protesters were confirmed dead while four were presumed dead.

The report listed 48 names as those who were casualties of the Lekki incident of October 20, 2020.

Among the 48 casualties listed, 24 sustained gunshot injuries, while 15 others were assaulted by soldiers and police.

The panel also noted that 96 other corpses were presented by a Forensic Pathologist of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Professor John Obafunwa.

According to the 309-page report, the protesters were killed by suspected policemen and soldiers.

Part of the report read, ” The evidence before the panel shows that after the Nigerian Army left, Nigeria Police Force, followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing
protesters into the shanties and the Lagoon at the Lekki Phase 1 Foreshore, close to the Lekki Toll Gate, floating corpse and one shot close to Serah Ibrahim.

“Several unidentified bodies were removed by security agencies and LASEHMU (Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit) and deposited at various hospital mortuaries in Lagos State.

“Three trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki Toll Gate in the morning of October 21st October, 2020 to clean up the scene of bloodstains and other evidence.

“The testimony and report of Professor John Obafunwa, a Forensic Pathologist of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, showed that three corpses were deposited at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba Hospital, all from the Lekki Toll Gate and the autopsy conducted thereon revealed death from bleeding caused by penetrating objects or rifled weapon.

“The Panel finds that the fact of lack of identity of some of the other 96 corpses on the list supplied by Professor Obafunwa would not obliterate the fact that some of them could have come from the Lekki Toll Gate Incident of October 20, 2020, or that some other unidentified corpses may have been removed by their families or the military, as claimed by the EndSARS protesters, far and beyond the list tendered by Professor Obafunwa.”

The panel was inaugurated on October 19, 2020, to look into complaints of citizens against human rights abuses by the police.

Following the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, the terms of reference of the Panel were expanded to cover that incident.

The panel sat for over one year, listening to testimonies of petitioners, witnesses, experts, and lawyers.

The panel treated 235 petitions and awarded N410 million to 70 victims.

The PUNCH

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Lagos #EndSARS Panel Submits Report

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The Lagos judicial panel on police brutality submitted its report on Monday to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the government house, Ikeja, Lagos.

The panel submitted two sets of reports — a consolidated report on police brutality cases and the Lekki incident investigation.

On October 19, 2020, as part of recommendations put forward during the #EndSARS protests, the Lagos government inaugurated the judicial panel to investigate petitions on police brutality in the state.

Speaking after receiving the report, Sanwo-Olu said it is the beginning of the “difficult process of proper reconciliation and restitution”.

The governor commended members of the panel for the work done, adding that posterity will be kind to them.

He said the report will be submitted to the national economic council (NEC), adding that “proper response” will be accorded to the recommendations.

Sanwo-Olu also constituted a four-member committee headed by Moyosore Onigbanjo, the state’s attorney-general, to come up with a white paper on the panel’s recommendations within the next two weeks.

“I’m believing and trusting that this process will help us start the very difficult process of proper reconciliation, restitution, bringing together of anyone that must have been one form or the other being affected,” he said.

“By either the police or any of our citizens that must have been wronged by one form or the other, the process of healing, I imagine, with the submission of this panel report, will start that process.”

The sitting was initially meant to last for six months but the period of proceedings stretched into one year.

The panel concluded its sitting on October 18, 2021, and said its findings and recommendations would be submitted to the state government.

Doris Okuwobi, chairperson of the panel, had said 186 of the 252 petitions submitted were deliberated upon.

According to an infographic released by the panel, the sum of N409.7 million was awarded to 70 petitioners.

However, the decision of the panel not to disclose its report on the Lekki shooting incident did not go down well with many Nigerians, including lawyers representing #EndSARS protesters.

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