Court remands pilots in prison for flying unknown passengers into Port Harcourt

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Two pilots working for Caverton Helicopters have been remanded by a magistrate court in Port Harcourt for violating the border closure order of the Rivers State Government.

Mr Mustapha Dandaura, Rivers State Police Commissioner, led other officers to perfect their arrest.

The suspects, Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari ferried unknown passengers to the state.

The police said the pilots violated the regulations regarding the safety of the state.

Wike had during a visit to Caverton office earlier in the day ordered the pilots to be interrogated.

Chief Magistrate, D.D Ihua-Maduenyi, who presided over the arraignment remanded the duo at the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre until May 19, 2020, for the commencement of trial.

The magistrate also ordered for tests to be carried out on the two pilots to ascertain their status.

The CP said: “Recall that when this coronavirus issues started, there was a ban of local flight from coming into the state. Since that time we have been monitoring the activities of these private airlines.

“To our surprise, we received an intelligence report that an aircraft had landed at the Airforce base and that it was carrying some passengers. We have apprehended the Pilot and the Co-pilot by the NAF commander, that’s why they alerted the executive governor of the state who had given an order that on no account should any aircraft land in Rivers State without clearance.

“We don’t know the people they brought. Whether they are positive or negative of Coronavirus. Where are they heading to and where they came from.”

“To our surprise this morning, this aircraft landed without any signal or permission from the authorities. We don’t know their mission here. Maybe they are coming here to sabotage the activities of the state and the security agencies that are putting efforts on ground to ensure that Rivers State enjoys peaceful atmosphere throughout this pandemic period.”

Wike said the protection of Rivers people is an important assignment that must be executed with the seriousness it deserves.

He said: “I am willing to drop my immunity as a governor as far this case is concerned. I am ready to be a prosecution witness.”

He charged the police to prosecute the matter to its logical conclusion to serve as a deterrent to those interested in violating the regulations of the state regarding the fight against coronavirus.

He said: “I want to say this is a serious matter to us and police should handle it seriously. That’s why I am here at the state command to show the seriousness of this issue.

“Nobody says that you can’t go to any state but now we are in a war situation. This Covid-19 is even worse than a conventional war. We want to know who are those people you brought in so that we have to trace them to know their identity and status. Luckily we have seen the pilot and the co-pilot. They will assist the police to assist in identifying them.”

Wike reiterated that though the State Government had no power to close airports, it has the right to check those coming into the state in order to ascertain their status.

“I have always said that we need the support of everybody. Nobody knows the status of those coming into Port Harcourt. Nobody knows whether they are positive or negative. I have said before that I don’t have the right to close the airport. But I have the right of saying don’t enter my state because we want to know your status,” he said.

He wondered why Carveton Helicopters decided to cut corners when the State Government outlined the procedure for flying expatriates from Lagos into the state.

He said: “The company wrote to us about bringing people which I forwarded to Commissioner of Police to perform security checks and the health officials to perform their duties before allowing them to come in. That is for those performing essential duties. But they decided to violate the regulations.”

Wike said that his administration was duty-bound to protect Rivers people from coronavirus.

Wike had in an Executive Order signed on March 19 suspended flights to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Air Force Base and Bonny Airstrip beginning Thursday, March 26.