By Davies Iheamnachor – Port Harcourt
Two former commissioners under Rotimi Amaechi administration in Rivers State, Emma Chinda and Tolofari George, have faulted Governor Nyesom Wike’s claim that a Legacy 600 aircraft belonging to the state was abandoned in Germany for over 10 years.
In separate statements, Chinda (former Commissioner for Agriculture) and Tolofari (former Commissioner for Transport) noted that the said aircraft had full documentation before the then administration in the state allowed it to be moved.
While Chinda stated that the plane was approved and taken to Germany for maintenance purposes, Tolofari said information about the whereabouts and condition of the aircraft was contained in the handover notes of Amaechi to Wike.
Chinda said: “He (Wike) has been talking about Rivers State plane for the past four years now, as usual, what he did was to take his comity of friends to use tax payers’ money as they have always done, to go for their meeting.
“If it is not so, tell me which aviation expert was in that delegation he took to Germany. What you see there was a group of politicians for his ‘Wike for President’ or for governors’ comity of friends.
“When we were in government, that aircraft got bad and it was taken overseas for repairs. I don’t know how long it would have taken to come back, but there was a proper documentation done before it was taken out of the country. Corroborating Chinda’s claim, Tolofari said:
“When we got the new aircraft that the current government is using now, the older Legacy aircraft was sent to Germany for repairs and refurbishment and then to be sold to generate revenue for critical infrastructural projects in the state.
“To the previous administration, there was no economic sense to keep and maintain two state planes. The cost was just too prohibitive, so the plan was to sell off the older Legacy plane.
“The plane was still in Germany at the time we handed over to the incoming administration. Everything was in the handover notes of the Ministry of Transport. In 2015 when the new administration took over, they claimed the same aircraft had been stolen. Today, they are now saying again that the aircraft was secretly abandoned.
Rivers govt reacts
Responding to Tolofari’s claim, Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications, Paulinus Nsirim, said: “We all know what manner of handover notes would be prepared by a roundly and comprehensively defeated outgoing administration, that never intended to hand over and did not even hand over at all in accordance with the recognised and accepted modus operandi of the process.
“Indeed, Governor Wike summed it up aptly during his meeting with Markus Froetschi, Manager, Business Development, General Atomics Aerotec, when he said: ‘The issue is, why was there no documentation to let the incoming government to know that we have this facility and we sent it to RUAG for inspection.’”