The Rivers State – owned Bombardier B700 Global Express jet may be free to fly again soon as the House of Representatives at a sitting on Wednesday declared that the allegations on which the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, grounded the aircraft, were baseless.
Chairman, House joint committee on justice and aviation, Ali Ahmad, while briefing his colleagues in a session presided over by deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, said that the aircraft was registered in the United States, just as over 70 per cent of the nation’s private jets were registered abroad.
While adopting the recommendations of the committee, the House requested the attorney-general and minister of 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 house members agreed.
It was also resolved that “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 with registration number N565Rs”
The lawmakers also warned the ministry of aviation to desist from undue interference in the day to day operations of the aviation regulatory authorities as envisaged by the law, even as it urged aviation regulatory authorities to operate professionally and ensure compliance with international best practices in the industry.
The acting director general of NCAA, Joyce Nkemakolam, had said in a press briefing that the controversial aircraft on the service of the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi was “operating illegally in the country”.
According to her, the aircraft which was grounded on April 26, had a clearance approval which expired in April 2, 2013, adding that the aircraft had exceeded the extra two days or 48 hours leeway for it to leave the country.
However, the state government in a swift defense said that it had complied with the norms regulating aviation business in the country.
The state commissioner for information and communications, Ibim Semenitari, said: “Just to say that all our documentation is in place and to also say that as a responsible sub-national, we have complied with the norms that regulate aviation business in Nigeria”.
She added: “We have applied formally to the honourable Minister of Aviation for the import licence. That application was received in her office in September 2012. So, we believe that all of the procedures, we have complied as best as we know.”