Caverton Helicopters faults Reps' report, denies links with Rivers on aircraft

By The Citizen

Caverton Helicopters yesterday faulted the House of Representatives' Committees on Justice and Aviation report that an 'agency relationship' exists between it and the controversial Rivers State owned aircraft N565RS.

The aviation company denied the existence of such a relationship and demanded concrete evidence from those who claim otherwise.

In its reaction on Sunday, Caverton Helicopters said it was surprising how the committees arrived at such weighty position and recommendation 'without an independent, forensic investigation and without any counter-veiling evidence other than the mere say-so of a party to a dispute.'

'We expected more rigour, more nuance, more balance, and greater restraint from such an august body,' added the statement signed by communication consultant to Caverton Helicopters, Mr. Waziri Adio.

'We challenge those who insist on manufacturing an 'agency relationship' where none exists to show concrete evidence,' the statement said. 'Such concrete evidence should include mandate from Rivers State Government to Caverton Helicopters on the said aircraft; evidence of payment(s) to Caverton Helicopters with corresponding invoice(s) for the purported services provided by us to the State Government in the last eight months on this aircraft; executed management or agency contract between the State Government and Caverton Helicopters; and any correspondences (whether through letter or email) on the issue during the past eight-month period we were purportedly involved with the aircraft.'

The company maintained that the only relationship it had on the aircraft was an 'unconsummated' one. 'We were instructed by ACASS, a Canadian firm, to help apply for importation permit for the aircraft in August 2012,' the company said. 'We sent a letter to the Minister of Aviation on August 27, 2012. But the same ACASS told us to stop because it was no longer in charge of the aircraft. So that relationship was not consummated. And that was the last dealing we had on the aircraft.

'After the grounding of the aircraft in April 2013, we surprisingly found out that our name had been used severally to apply for flight clearance permits for the same aircraft to allow it to fly within the country due to its foreign registration status. Those requests were forged, and we have said so to the regulatory authorities. The attempt to say that because we were involved with a request for aircraft importation in August 2012 means we were also necessarily involved with requests for flight clearances in 2013, despite our denial, tasks elementary logic to breaking point. Since it is inconceivable that we, as a private company, would have provided the purported services without payment and without documentation, we are challenging Rivers State Government to provide concrete evidence of contracts between us and payments/invoices by them to us'.

Caverton Helicopters also went ahead to state that the issue of who was responsible for the aircraft was settled categorically in February this year. 'The pilot of the aircraft, Captain Tosin Odulaja sent an email to an over-flight agency, Eurocontrol on February 5, 2013 that all the bills and charges for the aircraft should be passed on him,' the statement claimed. 'With that mail, the pilot himself admitted that Caverton Helicopters was not the operator of the aircraft and disclaimed any so-called agency relationship. This admission was made a clear two months before the controversy about the aircraft broke out. If the pilot accepted we were not responsible for the aircraft two months earlier, how come the pilot and his employers are now saying we are responsible for same aircraft? If two months earlier they disclaimed our responsibility on the aircraft, on what basis are they now saying, and the committees are also insinuating, that pressure was put on us to deny them? To deny them about what they themselves previously admitted did not exist?'

Caverton Helicopters added that as a business it would never deny any of its clients. 'We have nothing to gain from denying our clients,' the company stated. 'But we cannot be bullied, intimidated and blackmailed into admitting a fictitious relationship. We urge the public to look beyond partisanship and call on security agencies to independently investigate the matter.'

It could be recalled that in their report laid before the House last Thursday, the committees not only submitted that there was an agency relationship between Rivers State and the company, they went on to call for the prosecution of Caverton Helicopters 'for providing information that led the authorities to wrongly believe that Rivers State Government falsified documents leading to grounding of its aircraft.'