Aviation unions on Thursday condemned the remand of two Nigerian pilots and the entire passengers of Caverton Helicopter, which operated into the Nigerian Air Force Base in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the aviation unions include the National Union of Air Transport Employees and National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers.
Others are the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals.
Ochème Aba, NUATE General Secretary; Umoh Ofonime, Deputy General Secretary, NAAPE; Frances Akinjole, Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN; and AbdulRasaq Saidu, Secretary General, ANAP, signed a joint statement by the unions in Lagos.
NAN recalls that the arrest was effected personally by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, on the grounds that the personnel violated the state’s order prohibiting movement of persons.
The unions, however, explained that the flight was a special operation approved by all relevant government agencies in full compliance with the provisions of the Federal Government’s order on restrictions of movement following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The unions said: “It beats our imagination how the governor, who is a lawyer, will flagrantly discountenance the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The constitution vests legislation and regulation of aviation matters exclusively on Federal Government and how he could so vexatiously assume the power to invade a military base.
“The governor accosted aviation personnel who were on lawful national assignment and purportedly prosecuted and remanded innocent citizens and legal foreign workers contrary to everything reasonable and lawful and in such bizarre manner.
“Beyond the issue of legality, it is altruistic that any restrictions on movements due to emergency situations anywhere in the world normally precludes essential services providers as the current situation of Coronavirus shows worldwide.
“In Nigeria, nothing is more essential than oil and gas services. To impede production of oil and gas, as Wike’s action has done, is to dangerously touch the very nerve centre of Nigeria’s national economy.”
The unions said the incident had compounded complications capable of grinding electricity supply in the country to a halt as well as precipitating transportation crisis.
The statement added that the governor’s actions in the above respect was tantamount to national economic sabotage and a deliberate effort to cause public chaos.
It said: “Wike said that he took the actions based on his own law as the governor of the state prohibiting movements in the state.
“Does it mean his own order does not preclude essential services providers? If yes, then what was he doing on the road then? What were the policemen and other aides with him on the day doing on the roads?”
The unions demanded immediate and unconditional release from incarceration of the pilots and oil and gas workers who they said are presently under unlawful remand by the Rivers State Government.
They also demanded unqualified public apology to the personnel, pilots and passengers and the companies involved, Caverton Helicopters and Shell Petroleum.
They said: “We are also demanding for adequate compensation for the same persons and companies for personal damages and losses in revenue.
“Failure to meet these demands will incur the wrath of our unions and we shall have no choice than to mobilise the entire aviation community against the state governor and his government at the appropriate time at the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is not an empty threat.”