Reprieve came the way of Rivers State governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi yesterday as the House of Representatives cleared him of any wrong doing in the allegations that led to the grounding of his aircraft by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, in April.
The state-owned Bombadier B700 Global Express jet was grounded by the NCAA in Akure for purportedly flouting the country’s aviation rules. The development was viewed by many then as a political witch-hunt as subsequent events would confirm.
The lawmakers endorsed the report of the joint Committees on Justice and Aviation during plenary yesterday.
In yesterday’s report, the NCAA was advised to be professional in its activities.
Caverton Helicopters that was involved in the registration of the aircraft was however, recommended for sanction for misleading the aviation regulatory agency.
The NCAA had while justifying its grounding of the aircraft in a statement in April said, “By our records, the last flight clearance for this aircraft was approved for operation on Thursday, March 28, 2013 on Accra—PH–Accra and to terminate on April 2, 2013.
“With this development, the aircraft has exceeded the extra two days or 48 hours leeway for it to leave the country.
“While still operating illegally, the aircraft has been sighted in several places including Owerri and Akure. “The owner of this aircraft according to the Certificate of Registration is Bank of Utah Trustee of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
“The clearance for the aircraft was sought by Caverton Helicopters on March 27, 2013. Consequently, this aircraft in reference is hereby grounded at any airport that it is located right now in the country.”
However, the House aligned with the position of the recommendations of the report while considering the report of its joint Committee on Justice and Aviation which probed the justification and circumstances surrounding the controversial grounding of the Rivers state government aircraft last April.
According to Chairman of the Committee, Ali Ahmad (PDP, Kwara), the reasons adduced by NCAA for grounding the plane were false.
The Justice Committee Chairman further noted that over 70 per cent of private aircraft operating in the country were registered abroad, just as the Rivers’ aircraft was registered in the United States (US).
Therefore, the report recommended that, “The House should request the Attorney General and Minister for Justice to consider prosecuting Caverton Helicopters for misleading the NCAA to illegally ground the aircraft.
“For providing information that led the authorities to wrongly believe that Rivers State government falsified documents thereby leading to grounding of its aircraft, the Attorney General is requested to consider prosecuting Caverton Helicopters under the provisions of section 36 (4) Civil Aviation Act. C13, 2004.
“The Rivers State government should be allowed to comply with the necessary conditions for granting of all required permits and licences of Rivers state owned Bombadier B700 Global Express Registration Number N565Rs.”
The report also warned the aviation ministry against undue interference in the day to day operations of the aviation regulatory authorities as prescribed by the law.
“Aviation regulatory authorities are urged to operate professionally and ensure compliance with international best practices in the industry”.