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*Seek urgent release of arrested workers
Air traffic controllers under the aegis of Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) and Flight Crew Association of Nigeria (FCAN) have denounced the recent arrest by the Rivers State Government of two pilots in the course of discharging their duties.
They warned that a coalition of FCAN, NAAPE and NATCA are willing to stop all civil flights into and originating from Rivers State at short notice and up to three months if the remanded pilots are not released forthwith with an unreserved apology tendered for making them targets.
They noted that as professionals who are responsible for providing essential services in line with government directives and approvals granted by the appropriate authorities under the Nigerian constitution, the pilots should not be subjected to unwarranted harassments.
A statement jointly signed by NATCA President, Abayomi Agoro, FCAN President, Capt. Robert Roland and President of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) said they condemn in strong terms such blatant disregard to due process and executive recklessness on the part of those who are all edged to have executed the arrest.
According to them, “We believe that there are appropriate channels and procedures that should have been adopted in civil and legal manner to ensure that whoever that is alleged to have contravened any laws could be sanctioned and brought to book”.
To them, what is worrisome was that the pilots embarked on a flight under the approval of the relevant agency of government saddled with such responsibilities only to be arrested without any reasonable or cogent reasons in subsisting law and summarily sent to detention after court appearance and sadly remanded in Port-Harcourt prison till May 19th, 2020.
While appealing to Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike for the release of the men, stating that they believe that the matter should have been handled with decorum and the professional courtesies it deserves.
The group revealed that on April 1, 2020, a letter of approval with reference number: NCAA/ DG/FMA/36/19/53) duly signed by Capt. Musa Nuhu, Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was given to Caverton Helicopter Limited to provide flight support for the oil and gas industry.
They urged the Governor to resolve the matter expeditiously to encourage business in Rivers State, avoid embarrassment of pilots who are in this period acting in capacity of the Federal Government to keep the economy of the nation running and to maintain Rivers’ people’s confidence in flight knowing that pilots operate on a high level of respect to instructions, limitations and regulations and will not knowingly sabotage any existing government policies or protocols.
They drew the attention of the Rivers State government to the enabling Civil Aviation Act 2006 which they said is under the Exclusive legislative list in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as reviewed 2011) which vested all powers to legislate on matters relating to and regarding flights and carriage of passengers and goods by air of the Federal Government of Nigeria only.
They noted that on the strength of the enactment, no state government has powers to regulate any stated aviation or related matter therein, describing the Rivers State government’s action as a blatant violation of their individual rights, usurpation of powers and wrongful exercise of enabling statutes.
The group further tasked the Federal Government to immediately intervene and ensure the unconditional release of the pilots who they said have been subjected to the unwarranted punishment not known to the laws of Nigeria.