By Egufe Yafugborhi
The story about the Rivers State owned airplane which was said to have been abandoned in Germany since 2012 has now become a case of one issue, many perspectives with some of the key actors trading blames. Last week, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike led a delegation to the General Atomics Aerotec in Munich, Germany, where the plane was abandoned.
Wike explained that his administration, in a bid to recover state assets, had through intelligence discovered that the Legacy 600, a jet purchased by the Dr Peter Odili’s administration had been abandoned in Germany by his predecessor, current Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The Governor had told their German host that, “when we came into office 2015, we had no idea our plane was in your facility. It was a matter of asking questions before we got information that Legacy 600 is in RUAG, before General Atomics. We tried to make contact with you, which you obliged. We sincerely thank you for not hiding anything from us, because it is the property of the State (Rivers) Government. This plane was bought in 2003 by the government of Dr Peter Odili. By 2007 he handed over to the next government, my predecessor, now Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. While in office, by 2012 this plane was brought here for reasons we do not know.
“The issue is, why was there no documentation to let the incoming government know we have this facility and we sent it to RUAG for inspection? I do know from experience that inspection of such facility does not take more than six months. So, if it was brought in 2012, expectantly at least, by early 2013, the plane ought to have come back for use.”
Governor Wike, said he had to travel to Munich, Germany with the large state delegation, including lawmakers, cabinet members and Rivers PDP Chairman, Amb Desmond Akawor, to prove that the Legacy 600 has been discovered and was expected to be returned to the State.
The General Manager, Business Development, General Atomics Aerotec, Markus Froetschi, was said to have confirmed that the aircraft was brought to Germany by the immediate past Rivers administration and abandoned since 2012.
Froetschi was reportedly delighted that Governor Wike decided to repair and return the aircraft to Nigeria for use by the Rivers government, assuring that his company would be done with general maintenance and deliver the aircraft to the owner by March.
Wike’s allegations against Amaechi untrue, malicous —Tolofari
Tolofari George was Rivers State Commissioner for Transport between 2007-2015. He said the claims by Governor Wike were deliberately misleading to “malign and attack his predecessor and erstwhile benefactor, Amaechi.
According to Tolofari, “the lie is so obvious. It is simply not possible that a plane properly documented in handover notes of the State Ministry of Transport (which I supervised as Commissioner) to the incoming administration in 2015, can be said to be secretly abandoned. How?
“When we got the new aircraft which 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.
We can now all see that the issue is purely political and vindictive, hurling false allegations on the previous administration. In 2015, when they made an issue of Rivers state having two aircraft, and that one has been stolen, I issued a press release which reiterated that the aircraft was in Germany.”
Recovery of aircraft stunning — Okocha
Chief Tony C Okocha, Chief of Staff, Government House, Rivers State (2012~2015), faulting Tolofari, affirmed that the management of the Legacy 600 and the more sophisticated Bombardier Aircraft which was later added to the fleet, was, at his request moved from the state transport ministry and put under his portfolio on assumption of office.
Okocha, now Rivers All Progressives Congress chieftain, said, “Consequently, the aircraft hitherto managed by the Ministry of Transport, Rivers, came under the purview of my office, to fuel, maintain/service, procure parts and maintain the crew.
“Both Aircraft were parked at the International Airport or the Airforce, depending on convenience at the time. To my surprise, while I was in the company of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to the airport on a fateful day, I discovered that the Legacy 600 Aircraft, wasn’t at its usual parking space.
“I immediately invited the Head Pilot, who had become an assistant to Captain Tosin on the new Bombardier and queried the whereabouts of the Legacy 600. He professed ignorance. Same was Captain Tosin whose account was half~baked.
“Dissatisfied with the accounts, I did a memo to the Governor, capturing my bewilderment and utter surprise at the disappearance of the Aircraft. That Memo may have been treated but never minuted back to me.
“In Cabinet, between 2012/2015 as Chief of Staff, Government House, I attended All Executive Council Meetings. I was never privy to Exco decision to sell off the Legacy 600 Aircraft or exchange it for a better/superior model.
“The disappearance of the Aircraft was uncovered and officially communicated to my boss with no feed back. I wasn’t in the picture, neither in knowledge of the movement of the Aircraft to Germany for any reason whatsoever. Needless therefore to say that the recovery of the Aircraft in Germany, is stunning news to me.”
Wike is telling half truths — APC
Chris Finebone, Spokesman-elect, Rivers APC camp loyal to Rotimi Amaechi, said, “It is preposterous of Wike to feign ignorance about the said aircraft which he said was handed over to the administration he served as Chief of Staff from 2007 to 2011. For sure, the governor hasn’t said all he knows about the aircraft. We are talking about an aircraft here. It’s not enough to claim to have discovered the present location of the aircraft somewhere in Germany by some spooky intelligence. He should disclose how he made the discovery and when. He should say it all for the world to know. Half truths and cherry picking won’t help.
“The governor seems to have forgotten when he first made public mention about the aircraft being in Germany. May be, he needs the aircraft now for the campaign shuttle of his party members since he’s now the godfather of his party, PDP.”
Wike delivered the bitter truth —Nsirim
Paulinus Nsirim, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, expressed amazement at “attempts by Tolofari and indeed several key figures of the previous administration, to deny the truth about the Rivers Aircraft in Germany.”
Nsirim said, “It is quite typical of the opposition to deploy now tired diversionary tactic, by dwelling on the personality of Governor Wike and attempting to obfuscate the facts, whenever contentious issues of their mismanagement of Rivers funds and maladministration of the state are brought up.
“In this case however and as in several other glaringly verifiable instances including their failed monorail project, amongst others, they have once again, fallen woefully short of upholding their sincerity and integrity.
“Everyone residing in Rivers in 2015 was aware the previous administration never intended, had no intentions whatsoever, of handing over to the administration of Wike, when it became incontrovertibly clear that he had won the 2015 Governorship election.
“They fought Governor Wike ferociously, throwing everything they had at him, and continued to fight him even after February 2016 when the Supreme Court sealed his election victory, till the very last days of his first term, when a Federal High Court dismissed an age falsification suit literally hours before the March 9, 2019 Governorship elections.
“Tolofari in watery defence, had gone to great lengths, especially since he was Commissioner for Transport in the previous administration, to insist, but with scant corroboration, that the issue of the secretly abandoned Aircraft was properly articulated, in the hand over notes from the previous administration.
“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 recognized and accepted modus operandi of the process.
“Governor Wike has confirmed everything they have said about the Aircraft, from purchase by the Dr. Peter Odili administration, till the point the previous administration surreptitiously sneaked it into Germany on some spurious reasons, then apparently forgot it was there for the next three years.
“It is better left to the imagination to conjecture what the intentions of the previous administration, which never intended to hand over in the first place, would have been, when they decided to ‘abandon’ the aircraft in Germany for three years. As the saying goes, you have to use your tongue to count your teeth to get the answer on this matter.
“Rivers State remains the only State in world history where a previous government refused to hand over in a democracy.
“Rivers people will surely be grateful, satisfied that Governor Wike has succeeded in recovering this most valuable, secretly abandoned huge asset for Rivers people. This is the true quality of a patriotic leader who is sincerely determined to give his people quality and resulted oriented leadership.”