The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has given the Rivers State Government led by Governor Nyesom Wike 24 hours to release two Caverton Helicopters pilots; Capt Samuel Ugorji and Capt. Samuel Buhari that were arrested and taken into custody in handcuffs by the Rivers State Government for allegedly flouting the COVID19 Lockdown Order in the State.
The airline body threatened that should the Rivers State Government fail to release the pilots within 24 hours, airlines in the country would be forced to boycott all scheduled and unscheduled commercial and private flight operations, including oil and gas offshore flight services, into Port Harcourt for a period of three months.
The AON made the demand in a statement made available to journalists in Lagos.
AON condemned in the strongest term the move and considered 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.
Speaking on the issue, the Chairman of AON, Capt. Nogie Meggison, said, “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.” He continued, “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. We, therefore, hope our appeal for the immediate release of the pilots within 24 hours will be heeded by Rivers State Government otherwise Airlines in the country will have no other option than to completely boycott all operations into Port Harcourt.”