The Nigerian Aviation Management Agency (NAMA), yesterday, recalled and grounded an airborne OAS Helicopter ferrying Governor Adams Oshiomhole to Awka, Anambra State for the funeral service of the late Mrs. Colette Obi, wife of Senator Ben Obi, Special Adviser, Political Matters to the President.
Pilot of the helicopter, Captain James Manahash, a Filipino, said “I was surprised that I was recalled after taking-off from Government House because I had communicated with the control tower on radio.
“We were already airborne when we got the call to return to the airport and was even threatened that failure to do so would lead to complete grounding of the aircraft. The governor prevailed on me to return and listen to them.
“When we got back to the airport, I was told to pay landing and aerodrome fees which ordinary we could pay later because we were already airborne.
“Even after completion of the process of payment within 10 minutes, we were still delayed for one hour fifteen minutes. The Governor left in anger after that.
“I am surprised by this development because this is not the first time I would be coming to Benin to fly the governor.
“I was even threatened, after payment, that the aircraft will be grounded completely if I argued with them. I have flown for 35 years, seven of which I spent in Nigeria and this is the first time I am encountering a situation like this. I do not know what problem they have with the governor.”
Managing Director of the OAS Helicopters, Mr Everest Nnaji, who was contacted, expressed shock over the incident, saying that “I am still making calls to find out exactly why they did not allow the pilot fly the helicopter conveying the governor to Anambra state. I am really angry, I don’t know why they did that and that is why I am still trying to make contact because we have no problems with NAMA”.
When approached by newsmen, a visibly angry Oshiomhole who was kept in the sweltering sun for over an hour declined comment.
Having been delayed unnecessarily, the governor dashed into his official car and headed for his home town, Iyamho.
Oshiomhole’s ordeal might not be unconnected with the ongoing onslaught against Governors who are perceived to be in support of Governor Amaechi’s re-election as Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Public Affairs, Prince Kassim Afegbua, who reacted to the incident, said “I think the government of the day is competing with too many crisis and it is disturbing that governors are no longer respected or recognized even in their own domain when it is known that they were duly elected by the people.
“How else do you explain the role of a NAMA clerk who grounded the governor’s aircraft and prevented him from keeping his appointment in Anambra state because he is acting out a script that has become the rule of engagement by a dictatorial PDP regime. We remain unprovoked because we are civilized people” he stated.
Contacted, the Airspace Atom of NAMA, Mr Okolie said “I don’t have anything for you.”