The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Wednesday, lambasted Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, as well as the police officers and the Nigerian Air Force officers, who arrested two Caverton pilots on Tuesday.
Wike had ordered the arrest of the pilots and immediately arraigned them before a Rivers magistrates’ court for flouting the executive order he signed which bars flights in the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor was accompanied by the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura; and a senior Air Force officer.
However, the aviation minister said during the daily COVID-19 briefing in Abuja that the pilots were given the permission by the Federal Government to fly into Rivers State.
Sirika said aviation regulation and laws remain the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government and state governments have no right to regulate flights.
He said, “Civil aviation is on the exclusive list, on item number three. So, no other person except the Federal Government has the authority to legislate upon it. So, also the Nigerian Air Force, part of the Armed Forces, is on the exclusive list. There is no other authority but the Federal Government that has the legal right to legislate upon.
“So, the Air Force officer, who jumped the Commander-in-Chief and ignored him, who also jumped the chief of defence staff and the chief of air staff and ignored them, to call a governor and come into the property of the Federal Government and the Nigerian Air Force to make an arrest have exhibited dangerous ignorance and incompetence grossly.
“On whether we gave approval for the flight, yes we did and we did so in the national interest. All of those flights are for the purpose of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary.
“So, those flights by Caverton, by Aero Contractors, by Bristol and Arik and a couple more were of national interest.”