Coronavirus: Wike orders arrest of pilot for flying into Rivers

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The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, allegedly stormed the premises of Caverton Helicopters Ltd at the Nigerian Air Force base, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Tuesday, and ordered the arrest of a pilot who flew a helicopter into the oil-rich state.

Mr Wike recently barred vehicles and flights from entering Rivers State as a preventive measure to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.

Caverton is a logistics company providing support services for oil and gas companies in Nigeria. Its major clients include the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Total, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron.

Two persons working with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES.

The information about the incident, which was said to have happened in the afternoon, is still hazy as of the time of filling this report but photos seen by this newspaper showed Mr Wike’s entourage driving in and out of the Caverton premises.

Another photo of the incident showed an unidentified police officer guiding a pilot, apparently the arrested pilot, through a door.

The governor is said to be demanding that Caverton produce the passengers who were in the flight with the pilot.

The Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, Paulinus Nsirim, declined to comment on the issue when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him Tuesday evening.

The police spokesperson in Rivers, Nnamdi Omoni, requested that he should be given some times to find out information about the incident but did not call back the reporter as promised.

“I am yet to get the details,” the spokesperson of the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, told PREMIUM TIMES, Tuesday evening. “But I learnt there was an issue about a flight operated from Osubi to NAF Base.”

Governor Wike in a statewide broadcast on Sunday said the federal government was putting pressure on him to allow expatriates fly into Rivers State to drill oil.

“Every day, we are inundated with letters from the Federal Government to allow oil companies to fly in expatriates to drill oil. Then we ask, what is the status of those coming from Lagos? Nobody has told us their status as regards coronavirus.

“If they come to Rivers without us knowing their status, what will be the implication assuming they have the virus?” said the governor who has accused the federal government of “politicising” its support to states in the fight against the pandemic.

The governor had questioned why the federal government should give N10 billion grant to Lagos State to fight the pandemic, without giving any financial support to Rivers which he said “produces a greater percentage of the nation’s wealth”.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Monday announced a new case of coronavirus in Rivers bringing the number of confirmed cases of infection in the state to two.

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