The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has protested against the arrest of pilots of Caverton Helicopters by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and vowed to stop flights for three months into Rivers State if the arrested pilots are not released.
Governor Wike had ordered the arrest of the pilots for allegedly flouting the total restriction on flights currently in place in River State.
This vow was contained in a statement by the AON Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison.
“The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) hereby calls for the immediate release of two (2) Pilots of Caverton Helicopter; that were recently arrested and taken into custody in handcuffs by the Rivers State Government; for allegedly flouting the COVID-19 Lockdown Order in the State.
“The Airline Operators of Nigeria condemns the move in the strongest term and considers it very unlawful; in the face of the fact that the airline had secured all necessary approvals from the Ministry of Aviation; and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the flight in line with the protocols for exemption of Essential flights; as issued by the NCAA.
The AON also frowns at the crude action because the pilots were only doing their lawful duties; which were also in line with President Muhammed Buhari’s Exemption Order of the Oil and Gas sector; during the shutdown exercise. Aviation is under the Exclusivity List of the Federal Government and the Port Harcourt NAF Base is a Federal Government entity; outside the jurisdiction of the Rivers State Government.
“The Airline Operators of Nigeria hereby demands the immediate and unconditional release of the two pilots; with all purported charges dropped so that they can go back to their families for the Easter holidays; and return to their jobs.’’
Meanwhile, Wike had ordered the arrest of the pilots and declared Caverton Helicopters persona non grata in the state. Consequently, Wike had ordered the shutdown of Caverton Helicopters offices in all the local governments in Rivers State.
Equally important, he made this disclosure in a state broadcast on Wednesday.
Also, Wike accused the airline of endangering the lives of Rivers people by its suspicious operations.