*Rivers govt explains, wonders why State was singled out for sanction
By Okey Ndiribe & Jimitota Onoyume
The House of Representatives, yesterday, condemned the grounding of an aircraft, a Bombardier BD 700 Global Express jet, belonging to the Rivers State Government by the National Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, describing it as “witch-hunt” of “perceived political opponents”.
This was as the Rivers State Government expressed dismay over allegations of illegality and abuse of process by officials of different agencies in the aviation sector on the status of the aircraft.
The House of Representatives which condemned the grounding of the aircraft following a motion sponsored by Ahmed Idris, representing Wase federal constituency in Plateau State, said the incident “raises serious issues as to the abuse of powers by the executive and the use of state machinery to with-hunt perceived political opponents”.
Leading the motion under matters of urgent national importance, Idris, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Federal Character, said the action of the agency smacked of “impunity, lawlessness and political vendetta”.
The Speaker Aminu Tambuwal who criticised the executive arm for the action, described it as “detrimental to any democracy and tends towards dictatorship and draconian tendencies typical of the military era.”
He, therefore, mandated the House committees on Justice and Aviation to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident
Action dictatorial, smack of impunity, lawlessness and political vendetta — Reps
Adopting the motion, the House directed the two committees to “investigate the justification and circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Rivers State aircraft and report back to the House within two weeks”.
The BD 700 Global Express aircraft which was conveying Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Aminu Tambuwal was last week grounded by NAMA for what the agency called non-compliance with the aviation regulations as regards maintenance of aircraft.
Full story of our aircraft — Rivers State govt
Meanwhile, Rivers State Government, yesterday, expressed dismay at the statement attributed to officials of different agencies in the aviation sector on the status of the aircraft, insisting that the said aircraft was owned by the state government.
The state Commissioner of Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari said, “It is pertinent to note that all of the information and queries about this aircraft have only been through the media.
Rivers State Government had not received any communication from the Ministry of Aviation or any of its agencies querying the status of its aircraft even up till this moment.
“ Rivers State Government is surprised to read about matters of administrative procedure and allegations of illegality and abuse of process in the media. The state government wishes to note that this press briefing and the various issues raised arose only after the embarrassing incident of a delay of the aircraft and its passengers at Akure on April 26, 2013
“The state government wishes to note also that the issues raised in this press briefing will be the third reason adduced for the delay of the Rivers State Government’s aircraft in Akure.
However, for purposes of clarification and in keeping with its policy of rendering “transparent and accountable stewardship” to Rivers people, we would wish to state the following for the avoidance of doubt, that the Aircraft N 566 RS arrived Nigeria and has been operating since October 2012.
It was bought by Rivers State Government and registered as a US Aircraft in the first instance, to preserve value and provide ease of operation and sourcing of available pilots.
“To qualify for N registration, operator must be a US citizen hence RVSG entered into a trust with Bank of Utah Inc, a bank that specialises in aircraft trust.
The relationship between the state government and Bank of Utah is that of a trustor and trustee. All N registered Aircrafts enjoy the privileges of a US citizen. Trust agreement for the purpose of N registration is common in the aviation industry.
“It is important to state that there are other aircraft owners in Nigeria with N registered aircraft. This practice is because of the ease of movement that N registered aircraft are privileged to enjoy.
We do not therefore understand why Rivers State Government has been singled out. The clearance referred to was PH-Accra- PH and not Accra-PH-Accra as stated. The aircraft was being operated through a local operator, Caverton Helicopters, pending approval of importation licence by Minister of Aviation.
“Request for this licence was filed by the operator on behalf of the Rivers State government and this was expressly stated in the request filed on August 27, 2012 and received in the Minister’s office on September 4,2012.
Rivers State Government is a responsible sub national and guardian of the resources of its people. It will at all times and in all circumstances act within the confines of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
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