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.