The details of all private jets operating in Nigeria have been demanded by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, just as it waded into the row between the Rivers State Government and aviation authorities following the grounding of Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s jet.
The Joint House Committee on Justice/Aviation gave the directive to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority following the conflicting accounts before it on the legal status of the Bombardier BD-700 jet.
The Lead Chairman of the committee investigating the circumstances which led to the grounding of the aircraft by the NCAA, Mr. Ali Ahmad, said the details of private jets required would include the names of the owners, registration documents, expiry dates, place of purchase and “the nature of their operational status, whether they are ad-hoc, leased or fully purchased”.
The Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, claimed at the hearing that Amaechi’s jet was a “foreign aircraft” unknown to law in the country.
She alleged that the documents of the jet were “falsified” to evade detection of its full status.
“We have no way within our system to know why a foreign aircraft will be flying in Nigeria with the Coat of Arms. We have seen this impunity.
“We are perplexed as we sit here because we do not know the owner of this aircraft. It came into our country with falsified documents.
“We are investigating this and a report will be made public; all the documents before us are of doubtful origin,” Oduah said.
She threatened to drag the Rivers State Government before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission over the alleged “infractions.”
Secretary to Rivers State Government, Mr. George Feyii, who represented the state however debunked the claims of Oduah and the NCAA, arguing that the status of the aircraft had never been in doubt, adding that all legal papers to fly the jet in the country were available.
He also stated that the government never received any prior information from regulatory authorities before the April 26 flight manifest incident in Akure, Ondo State.
Feyii told the committee that the trustee arrangement between the state government and the Bank of Utah in the United States did not alter the legal status of the jet as the property of Rivers State Government.
“We never received any information on breach of regulation. The aircraft is the property of Rivers State Government till date.
“It is not of doubtful origin and we have not breached any due process procedures”, he added.
However, members of the committee became confused when Caverton Helicopters, a licensed operator that facilitated the importation of the aircraft in August 2012, tried to disown the state government.
The Executive Vice-Chairman of the company, Mr. Adeniyi Makanjuola, denied knowledge of flight permits the aircraft had to fly in the country on its approval.
Makanjuola added that any letter “purported” to have been written by his company seeking flight approvals for Amaechi’s jet “did not come from us”.
Makanjuola’s persistent denial of any transactions between Caverton Helicopters and the state government enraged a member of the committee, Mrs. Nkoyo Toyo.
She flared up, “Caverton is not telling us the truth here; you are holding back a lot of issues.”