BY LAWANI MIKAIRU
Controversy surrounding the status of the aircraft, Bombardier BD 700 Express jet owned by the Rivers State Government was further stoked, yesterday, as the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, faulted the claim by Rivers State that the aircraft was being operated through a local operator, Caverton Helicopters.
Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, had in a statement on Tuesday said the aircraft was being operated through Caverton Helicopters pending approval of importation licence by Minister of Aviation.
She had explained that “request for licence was filed by the operator on behalf of the Rivers State government and this was expressly stated in the request filed on August 27, 2012 and received in the Minister’s office on September 4, 2012″
The aviation regulatory agency, NCAA, however, said: “Caverton Helicopters was not responsible for the management and operation of the Rivers State government’s aircraft, the Bombardier Global Express 5000 with registration number N565RS”.
A letter NCAA sent to the Minister of Aviation on April 29 and signed by its acting Director General, Joyce Nkemakolam, said, “Caverton Helicopters was invited for a meeting today, April 29, 2013, they denied having any dealings with this aircraft in question.”
NCAA has, therefore, said it was considering inviting the security agencies for further investigation into the documents used to operate the aircraft in Nigeria.
NCAA further said it was prompted to investigate the aircraft background after the Akure incident and discovered that it had been operating into and out of Nigeria on an adhoc basis, which means that it never had proper documents for it to actually operate in the country.
“After the media reports of what happened in Akure airport, we undertook a due diligence of the status of the aircraft and to our amazement found that the aircraft has been operating into and out of Nigeria on an adhoc arrangement since January 2013,” NCAA said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, has said that the delay of the Bombadier BD 700-1A11 (Global Express) belonging to the Rivers State Government at the Akure Airport on Friday, April, 26, 2013 was not for political reasons.
The agency explained, “we maintain that the aircraft’s pilot erred by not filing mandatory documents, that is the manifest as when due, at an airport that was not certified for night flight operations.
“Whenever an aircraft stays beyond 6.00pm, authorization must be got from the appropriate authorities before such aircraft is cleared for take-off, hence the slight delay in the departure of the aircraft.”