Faith Yahaya, Abuja
The Federal Government said it approved Caverton Helicopters that flew into Port Harcourt.
The federal government also noted that the arrest of Caverton’s pilot by the State Government showed ‘dangerous ignorance’.
The pilots were arrested by the police for flouting the State’s Government directive of flying unknown passengers into the Air Force Base in Port Harcourt following the spread of COVID-19.
The Federal Government said the flight was approved in the national interest and also to boost national revenue considering the fall in oil price.
Speaking at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, faulted the Air Force officers who drew the attention of the State Government to the flight and the police officers who made the arrest.
On whether the pilots got approval to fly, the Minister said: “Civil Aviation is on the exclusive list. No other person but the federal government has the authority to legislate that. So the Nigeria Air Force and the Armed Forces are also on the exclusive list. There is no other person but the federal government that has the legal right to legislate that.
“So, the Air Force officer who jumped the Commander in Chief and ignored, who also jumped the Chief of Defence Staff and ignored, who jumped the Chief of Air Staff and ignored to call a governor to come into the property of a federal government and blaming the Nigeria Air Force has exhibited dangerous ignorance and incompetence grossly.
“So, the police that followed the governor in there to make the arrest also exhibited dangerous ignorance from our perspective in civil aviation.
“We approved the flight and we did in the national interest. All of those flights were to improve the national revenue to which River state is the greatest beneficiary. So, those flights by Caverton, Aero Contractor, Bristow, Arik and a couple more were for national interests and improved national revenue.
He continued: “At a time when oil has gone below $30 and the cost of production is $30, in the wisdom of President Buhari, he thought that this is allowed even in this national pandemic so that the nation will not be crippled and the national revenue will not be lost.
“It is against this background that we have the authority being it exclusively on the exclusive list that and we have the powers in civil aviation guided by the Civil Aviation Act 2006 approved such flights.
“So, those flights were approved lawfully and legally. So, we will do everything lawful and legal and reasonable to get those pilots back and the operations will continue in the national interest.”