Court remands 10 passengers of Caverton Helicopters caught flying in Rivers airspace amid lockdown

Nyesom Wike

A Port Harcourt Chief Magistrates’ Court has ordered the remand of 10 passengers who flew into the Air Force Base in Port Harcourt on board the Twin-Otter Caverton Helicopters on Tuesday.

Chief Magistrate D. D. Ihua-Maduenyi gave the order on Wednesday after the Rivers State Government said the flight contravened paragraph 8 of its Executive Order RVSG-01 2020.

The governor had ordered a closure of the state’s borders as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The court had, however, on Tuesday remanded the pilots of the flight – Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari – for operating the alleged illegal flight.

The pilots pleaded not guilty to a four-count charge preferred against them by the state.

The court ordered that they be remanded at any government facility to enable medical personnel from the state carry out test to determine their coronavirus (COVID-19) status.

They are to stay in prison custody until May 19.

Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State, Prof. Zacheus Adangor, led the prosecution team.

The 10 passengers were arraigned on a four-count charge.

According to court documents, their names are Nwogu Chibuna, 39;  Peter Michael, 43; Ajagba Iheayin, 35; Ekperewechi Oguguo, 43;  Nsikan Pius, 38.

Others are Abanobi Chinoso, 27; Udoh Hagan, 28; Okachukwu Chuks, 41; Goddy Chuku, 42; Oomerurike Chijioke, 43.

However, Caverton’s management, in a statement on Tuesday, said the company has not violated any law.

“At the start of the COVID -19 lockdown, we received a letter from our client stating that they have been given approval/ exemption to fly and continue operations.

“We (Caverton along with three other companies) also received approval from the Minister of Aviation to fly only essential services, mainly in the Oil and Gas industry.

“Lastly, we got another approval from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to fly for this same oil and gas sector. We have been flying along with these guidelines for the past seven days.

“Today, we were informed that the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike was coming to address the operators in Port Harcourt and our people waited. But on arriving, the governor directed two of our pilots to be taken to CID where they were told to write statements.

“Despite all pleas by our lawyers who showed all the relevant documents, they were taken to the magistrate court and charged.

“At the court, our lawyers also presented all the documentations approving us to fly by the federal government but the case was closed and the pilots have been remanded in Port Harcourt prison till the 19th May,” the company said.