• Seek immediate release of aviators
A coalition of aviation workers’ unions has urged the Federal Government to wade into the arrest and detention of two pilots and their passengers in Rivers State, and ensure their immediate freedom to avert imminent boycott of Rivers airspace.
The unions yesterday condemned the action of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who allegedly ordered the arrest of the two pilot citing violation of the stay-at-home order in the State.
The workers, under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and Flight Crew Association of Nigeria (FCAN), insisted that there was no justification for the incarceration.
General Secretary of NUATE, Ochème Aba, said they were completely taken aback and miffed by the unwarranted and unlawful arrest of two Nigerian pilots and entire passengers of a helicopter operated into the Nigerian Airforce Base in Port Harcourt.
The flight, according to them, was a special operation approved by all relevant government agencies, including the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in full compliance with the provisions of the Federal Government order on restrictions of movement following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It beats our imagination how Governor Wike, a lawyer, would so flagrantly discountenance the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which vests legislation and regulation of aviation matters exclusively on Federal Government, and how he could so assume the power to invade a military base, accost aviation personnel, who were on lawful national assignment and purportedly prosecute and remand innocent citizens and legal foreign workers, contrary to everything reasonable and lawful, and in such bizarre manner.”
Deputy General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Francis Akinjole, the unions demand the immediate and unconditional release of the pilots and oil and gas workers.
“We, in like vain, demand an unqualified public apology to the personnel – pilots and passengers- and the companies involved – Caverton Helicopters and Shell Petroleum, as well as adequate recompense for the same persons and companies for personal damages and losses in revenue.
“Failure to meet this demands will incur the wrath of our unions and we shall have no choice than to mobilise the entire aviation community against Governor Wike and Rivers State Government at the appropriate time, at the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Akinjole said.
President of NATCA, Abayomi Agoro, said the matter was civil in nature and are appropriate channels and procedure that should had been adopted to resolve the matter.
But since that was not done, “we urge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, intervene and ensure that immediate and unconditional release of these pilots who have subjected to this unwarranted punishment not known to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”