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Amaechi's jet banned from flying by FG

By The Citizen

The Federal Government has banned the official plane of Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, for 'operating illegally in the country.'

The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency had on Friday temporarily grounded the Bombardier - BD700 Global Express aircraft in Akure, Ondo State, over the pilot's alleged inability to provide the manifest of the plane.

However, the aviation industry regulator, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, on Saturday, announced that the aircraft had been banned from flying in Nigeria.

The Director of Airworthiness and Standards, NCAA, Mr. Benedict Adeyileka, alleged that the aircraft had been flying illegally to several places, including Owerri in Imo State and Akure.

The statement read in part, 'The controversial aircraft on the service of Governor Rotimi  Amaechi  is operating illegally in the country. The clearance approval of the Bombardier BD700 Global Express, with registration number N565RS, expired since April 2, 2013.

'By our records, the last flight clearance for this aircraft was approved for operations on March 28, 2013 on Accra/Port Harcourt and Accra 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.

'Consequently, this aircraft in reference is hereby grounded at any airport that is located right now in the country.

'The owner of this aircraft, according to the certificate of registration, is Bank of Utah Trustees of Salt Lake City Utah United States of America.'

Amaechi, in company with the Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, was stranded for two hours at Akure Airport, as  NAMA prevented his jet from flying on Friday.

Amaechi was departing Ado-Ekiti after attending the burial of Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Funmi Olayinka, when the incident occurred.

It was learnt that it took the intervention of Tambuwal before the aircraft was allowed to take off.

NAMA's   spokesperson, Mr. Supo Atobatele, who confirmed the development on Friday, had said the plane was not cleared to take off initially because the pilot failed to observe certain mandatory requirements.

Following the grounding of the plane, the Rivers State Government on Saturday, described the defence of the aviation authorities as a 'big lie.'

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. David Iyofor, said contrary to NAMA's claims on Friday, the pilot of  the plane had  filed his flight plan and declared his manifest, but was told to see the controller.

The controller, according to Iyofor, told the pilot that the state government's plane would not be allowed to leave the airport.

'It is indeed most shameful and ludicrous that NAMA and the aviation authorities are now saying that they grounded the Rivers State government's plane because the pilot did not file a flight plan and declare a manifest.

'That's a blatant lie. The pilot filed the flight plan and manifest, and paid all the statutory airport fees and charges shortly after the plane arrived at the Akure Airport in the afternoon.

'If the pilot filed a flight plan and manifest at the airports in Abuja and Owerri, where he flew from same day, why won't he then do the same in Akure?

'It is instructive to note that all through the traumatic time we spent in Akure, no official of the airport or aviation staff came to tell Governor Amaechi that we were grounded because our pilot refused to file a flight plan and manifest.

'All they kept saying was that they were just obeying directives; it was beyond them and we should call Abuja. The Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, and the other four members of the House of Representatives are living witnesses to that charade,' Iyofor said.