The Rivers State Government says its action against the Carveton Helicopters is all about protecting the residents of the state from contracting the coronavirus pandemic.
It also claims that Governor Nyesom Wike is not in any way contesting the functions on the Exclusive List with the federal government as being suggested in some quarters.
Information and Communication Commissioner Paulinus Nsirim who made the position of the government known in Port Harcourt said the helicopter pilots and its 10 passengers were arrested because the airline had continually flouted Wike’s order against the spread of the virus.
He said prior to the arrests, the company had ferried over 220 passengers into the state without subjecting them to the mandatory health check to ascertain their coronavirus status.
He said: “Contrary to the view being peddled by the Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, the two pilots of Carveton Helicopters and their 10 passengers were not arrested because they operated a permit granted them by the Ministry of Aviation.
“They were arrested because they constantly contravened the Executive Order issued by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, which requires that everyone coming into the state for essential duties subject themselves to mandatory health checks to ascertain their coronavirus status.
“Before their arrests, the Rivers State Government issued several warnings to Carveton and other operators to ensure that their pilots and passengers are tested by Rivers State Health Authorities.
Carveton Helicopters disregarded the warnings.
“At the last count, Carveton Helicopters ferried over 220 passengers into the State without allowing health professionals of the Rivers State Government ascertain their coronavirus status. They also refused to avail the state government their contacts, so they can be traced and tested.
“The Rivers State Government under the leadership of Nyesom Ezenwo Wike remains committed to the protection of the over six million citizens of the state. We are not struggling to issue landing permits to airlines; neither are we contending for the control of the air space. Therefore, the issue on ground has nothing to do with the Exclusive List.”
He said the government was focused on ensuring that no one, under the guise of transporting workers on essential services, ferry in persons capable of compromising the state’s health system. He insisted that the pilots and passengers must go through the standard practice of subjecting themselves to health checks before discharging their responsibilities in the state.
The commissioner branded the reactions of federal government officials to the arrests as “indecent and reckless politicization.
He said, “The federal government as we speak has quarantined Chinese doctors who are in the country on invitation of the operators of Exclusive List. These Chinese doctors will be isolated for 14 days as a precaution before they mix with Nigerians.
“If the federal government has done that in Abuja for Chinese officials that they invited, why do they insist that persons coming into Rivers State must enter the state without health check? What is the objective of these persons promoting unhindered access into Rivers State for persons from a coronavirus impacted state?
“From all indications, it is clear that there is a plot to compromise the health of Rivers people. Otherwise, what is the motive for the grandstanding and the sponsorship of false editorials to mislead Nigerians by agents of the federal government?”
The Rivers State Government urges the federal government to direct all their business associates to subject themselves to health checks to ascertain their coronavirus status.
On this premise, the Rivers State government is not prepared to compromise. The safety of Rivers people is beyond any other consideration.
“Wike through the various prevention strategies he had initiated has demonstrated to the entire world that he is prepared for leadership. The truth is that it is in time of crisis like the whole world is facing now, that you know genuine leaders.”