Minister Accuses Rivers Govt Of Forgery

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....As Rivers Faults Minister, NCAA

ABUJA, May 15, (THEWILL) – The Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, Tuesday, alleged that the Rivers State Government operated the Bombadier 7000 aircraft grounded by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) by forging and falsifying the aircraft's certificates and licences in violation of the extant aviation regulations.

She said the Federal Government had not foreclosed instituting criminal proceedings against the State Government.

But the Rivers State Government has also accused the Federal Government of flouting sec 35(5) of the NCAA act by grounding the aircraft without prior written notice as required by the provision.

Oduah, who disclosed this while testifying before the joint Justice and Aviation Committee of the House of Representatives, investigating the matter, said the Ministry will not hesitate to prosecute the Rivers State Government.

"The institution of criminal proceedings under our criminal laws, EFCC Act and ICPC Act against the above infractions is not foreclosed. This has become imperative in view of the fact that some of the provisions in our Civil Aviation Laws tilt toward imposition of civil penalties", she said.

According to the minister, "The registration was issued to Bank of Utah Trustee of 200 E, South Temple, suite 210, Salt Lake City, UT84111-1346", and not in Nigeria or by Nigerian aviation authorities.

According to Oduah, the "aircraft was imported without the knowledge of the Ministry or Aviation authorities", stressing that "it is not a Nigerian aircraft; it's a visiting aircraft" adding "we don't even know where this aircraft is coming from."

Also confirming the position of the Minister, the committee noted that the aircraft's flight permit by aviation authorities in the country as a foreign air vessel had expired.

Again, Rivers State’s claim that Caverton Helicopters was in charge of its interest in the aircraft, requesting and securing necessary clearances, was denied by the helicopter firm.

Caverton, represented by the Managing Director, Sola Falola, agreed that it was in partnership with the state initially, but said the cooperation ended since August 2012. "Note that to date, our organisation has no formal contact with Rivers State Government with respect to the operations of the aforesaid aircraft. We never received a mandate written or otherwise, neither did we enter into any management contract of any sort with the Rivers State Government," Falola said..

The Rivers State Government represented by Captains Tosin and Princewill however accused the Federal Government of violating section 35(5) of the NCAA Act by failing to give the state government a written notice before grounding the plane as required by law.

They said all fees were duly paid by the state government to the relevant authorities, hence denying that the authorities were not in the know of the existence of the aircraft was unthinkable.

The co-chairman of the joint committee, Hon. Ali Ahmad, however ordered the aviation authorities to immediately submit a comprehensive list of all private jets in the country.

The list, according to the committee, which must be made available within two days, must contain identification of all private jets in the country, names of owners, agents, expiration dates of clearance and licenses and other vital data.

“Let us have a register of titles of all registered private aircraft in Nigeria including those on adhoc basis. If anyone is confidential, indicate so,” the Chairman, House Committee on justice, Ali Ahmad, said..