The last may not have been heard about the political battle between
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers sstate and President Goodluck
On Friday in Akure, the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority
(NAMA) grounded for several hours the Rivers state government
The aircraft flew Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Speaker of House of
Representaives Aminu Tambuwal, DG of Governors’ forum
Asishana Bayo Okauru, and Rivers state politician Prince Tonye
princewill from Owerri to Akure to attend the burial of the Ekiti state
deputy governor Late Funmilayo Olayinka.
Reports say while in Akure, NAMA issued a directive that Rivers
aircraft which has been flying in Nigeria be grounded due to some
documentations problems, a development that many believe was
due to frosty relationship between the governor and the president.
Reacting to the incident, Governor Amaechi describes NAMA’s
directives to ground the state’s plane as “most shameful and
ludicrous” in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary.
The statement reads in full:
“HOW RIVERS STATE GOVERNOR, RT. HON. CHIBUIKE ROTIMI
AMAECHI, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER AMINU
TAMBUWAL, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MEMBERS,
DIRECTOR-GENERAL GOVERNORS’ FORUM, PRINCE TONYE
PRINCEWILL WERE GROUNDED IN AKURE AIRPORT AND
AVIATION AUTHORITIES’ COCK AND BULL STORIES
“We had set out from Abuja in the morning of Friday April 26, 2013
to Imo State to attend the funeral rites of the younger sister of the
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Emeka
“Our plane, a Bombardier jet owned by the Rivers State
Government, landed at the airport in Owerri. It was in Owerri that the
pilot of our plane was first tipped off that there is a plot to ground
our plane in Owerri that Friday.
“Fortunately for us, we took off from Owerri airport and arrived at
Akure airport en-route to Ekiti for the burial of the Deputy Governor
of Ekiti State Funmilayo Olayinka without any incident.
“On the flight to Akure was the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who we met in Imo
State and was also heading to Ekiti for the burial of Mrs. Olayinka.
Also on the flight were the Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon,
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Director-General Nigeria Governors
Forum(NGF) Asishana Bayo Okauru, Kalabari prince and politician,
Prince Tonye Princewill, some aides of the Governor and myself.
“Once our party left the Akure airport for Ekiti, our pilot went to the
airport offices to make statutory airport payments and fees, file his
flight plan and declare his manifest. After filing his fight plan and
declaring his manifest, our pilot was told to go and see the
Controller. The Controller bluntly told him that the Rivers
Government plane would not be allowed to leave the airport. In
other words, the plane had been grounded! He said that the plane
should have been grounded in Owerri. The Controller on duty at the
airport in Akure mentioned some vague issues relating to the
customs papers of the plane, which has been flying in Nigeria for
many months? That didn’t make any sense to the pilot. He enquired
on whose orders the plane was being grounded, he was told that it
was the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management
Authority (NAMA). And that he should reach the NAMA MD.
“By the time our party, which now included four House of
Representatives Honourable members- Mohammed Sani Idris Kutigi,
Daniel Rayeineju, Idris Ahmed Wase and Ifedayo Abegunde –
returned to the Akure airport, there was confusion everywhere.
Speaker Tambuwal, the Honourable members and Governor
Amaechi and his team were all stranded at the airport. The plane
that brought Speaker Tambuwal and Governor Amaechi to Akure
could not leave Akure airport. Calls were being made as these two
democratically elected leaders, furious and perplexed, tried to
fathom what could have caused this monumental embarrassment to
them and their offices.
“After trying fruitlessly for some time to get the plane released,
Speaker Tambuwal then offered to fly Governor Amaechi to Port
Harcourt with the plane (another small aircraft) that brought the
other four Honourable members to Akure. To accommodate
Governor Amaechi in the small aircraft, one of the House of
Representatives members offered his seat to the Governor.
“The pilot of the Rivers State Government plane was already locking
up the aircraft for us to leave for Lagos by road when a call
eventually came through that the plane could now leave. The
Controller received a directive to allow the plane fly out of Akure.
The decision to let us go, we later learnt, was due to the pressure
brought on the aviation authorities by Speaker Tambuwal.
“It is indeed most shameful and ludicrous that NAMA and the
Aviation authorities are now saying that they grounded the Rivers
State Government plane because the pilot did not file a flight plan
and declare a manifest. That’s a blatant lie. A big fat one at that.
“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. Speaker
Tambuwal and the other four members of the House of
Representatives are living witnesses to that charade.
“NAMA and the aviation authorities should explain to Nigerians why
an aircraft owned by a State government, that flew the Speaker of
the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and a
democratically elected Governor of a State who also the chairman
of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, would be grounded at an airport
for no just cause? ”
Source: African Examiner