A Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate Court, yesterday, remanded two pilots of Carveton Helicopters, Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari in prison custody, for allegedly intentionally disobeying the Executive Order issued by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, aimed at checking the spread of Coronavirus in the state.
The court, presided over by Chief Magistrate D. D. Ihua-Maduenyi, remanded the two pilots at the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre till May 19, 2020, when their trial would commence.
Ihua-Maduenyi ruled that COVID-19 tests be carried out on the two pilots to ascertain their status.
The pilots, who were arrested by the Rivers State Police Command, were arraigned by the state Police Command via charge number: PMC/532C/2020.
The Prosecution Counsel and Officer-in-charge, Legal of the Rivers State Police Command, SP Gladys Amadi told the court that the acts of the two pilots were capable of putting the entire state in danger of contracting Coronavirus.
She urged the court to remand the accused in prison custody to enable the police conclude their investigation, noting that allowing the accused persons roam the streets would endanger others in the state.
According to her, remanding the pilots would also stop them from further violating the Executive Order.
The Honourable Attorney General of Rivers State, Prof Zacheus Adango was also in court.
The pilots are facing a four-count charge, including, “That you, Samuel Ugorji (m), Samuel Buhari (m) and others now at-large, as pilot and co-pilot of Twin-Otter, Carveton Helicopters, on the 7th day of April, 2020 at the Air Force Base, Port Harcourt in the Port Harcourt Magisterial District, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit misdemeanour to wit: disobedience to lawful order and thereby committed an offence under Section 517A of the Criminal Code CAP 37, Vol 11 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.
“That you, Samuel Ugorji (m), Samuel Buhari (m) and others now at-large, on the same date and place at the aforesaid Magisterial District, did intentionally disobey the lawful order issued by the governor of Rivers State as contained in Paragraph 8 of the Executive Order RVSG -01 2020 made pursuant to Sections 2, 4, and 8 of Quarantine Act Cap. Q2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Regulation 11 of the Quarantine (Coronavirus (COVID-19 ) and other Infectious Diseases) Regulations, 2020 by flying the Twin-Otter Caverton Helicopters into Air Force Base, Port Harcourt and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 5 of the Quarantine Act Cap Q2 LFN, 2004.
“That you, Samuel Ugorji (m), Samuel Buhari (m) and others now at-large, on the same date and place at the aforesaid Magisterial District, did conduct yourselves in a manner likely to cause a breach of peace by flying and discharging passengers from the Twin-Otter helicopter at the Air Force Base, Port Harcourt and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 249 (d) of the Criminal Code Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.
“That you, Samuel Ugorji (m), Samuel Buhari (m) and others now at-large, on the same date and place at the aforesaid Magisterial District, did intentionally disobey the lawful order issued by the governor of Rivers State on restriction of movement and flights within the state contrary to Paragraph 8 of the Executive Order RVSG -01 2020 and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 203 of the Criminal Code Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999.”
However, for violating the order banning entry of flights into the state, two pilots were yesterday, arrested in Port Harcourt by the Rivers State Police Command.
The pilots were arrested at the Air Force Base in Port Harcourt.
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who briefed newsmen in the office of the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Mustapha Dandaura, expressed worry that the passengers who flew in with the flight had been discharged without the authorities knowing their Coronavirus status.
“These gentlemen came in and brought some passengers. As I speak to you, these passengers are in the state. This is going to cause us sleepless nights.
“I want to say it is a serious matter to us and the police must handle it seriously.
“Now, we are in a war situation. We want to know these people you brought in so that we can trace them”, Wike said.
The State Chief Executive disclosed that the index case in the state has tested negative and has been discharged but added that unfortunately, another Coronavirus positive case was recorded last Monday.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Danduara had said that the arrest of the two pilots followed an intelligence report that the flight had landed at the Air Force Base with passengers.
The pilot and the co-pilot, he said, were apprehended by the Air Force Commander, adding that it was not known where the passengers were flown in from.
“To our greatest surprise, the aircraft landed without permission. We didn’t know their mission or if they have come to sabotage the state.
“His Excellency, being somebody very security conscious, alerted me, and we went to the Air Force Base and saw these pilots”, the police boss stated.
He expressed regret that when the governor of the state and service commanders have been going round the markets, churches and other public places in the state to ensure that the directives against Coronavirus spread were strictly obeyed, such development occurred.
He assured the governor that a search for the passengers in the said flight would commence immediately so as to trace their whereabouts in the state.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, threatened to set aside his immunity to testify against persons who violate the state’s border closure regulations aimed at preventing the spread of Coronavirus.
Speaking at the office of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura in Port Harcourt, yesterday, following the arrest of two pilots of Carveton Helicopters who illegally transported expatriates to the state, Wike said that the protection of Rivers people was an important assignment that must be executed with the seriousness it deserves.
The governor said: “I am willing to drop my immunity as a governor as far as this case is concerned. I am ready to be a prosecution witness.”
He charged the police to prosecute the matter to its logical conclusion to serve as deterrent to those interested in violating the regulations of the state regarding the fight against Coronavirus.
Wike said: “I want to say this is a serious matter to us and police should handle it seriously. That’s why I am here at the state command to show the seriousness of this issue.
“Nobody says that you can’t go to any state but now, we are in a war situation. This COVID-19 is even worse than a conventional war. We want to know those people you brought in so that we have to trace them to know their identity and status. Luckily, we have seen the pilot and the co-pilot. They will assist the police in identifying them”.
Wike reiterated that though the state government has no power to close airports, but added that it has the right to check those coming into the state in order to ascertain their status.
“I have always said that we need the support of everybody. Nobody knows the status of those coming into Port Harcourt. Nobody knows whether they are positive or negative. I have said before that I don’t have the right to close the airport. But I have the right of saying ‘don’t enter my state because we want to know your status’,” he said.
He wondered why Carveton Helicopters decided to cut corners when the state government outlined the procedure for flying expatriates from Lagos into the state.
The governor said: “The company wrote to us about bringing people which I forwarded to the commissioner of police to perform security checks and the health officials to perform their duties before allowing them to come in. That is for those performing essential duties. But they decided to violate the regulations.”
Wike said that his administration was duty-bound to protect Rivers people from Coronavirus.
He confirmed the second case of Coronavirus in the state, explaining that the person was 62-years old who recently returned from the United Kingdom and entered the state through Lagos.
Wike also confirmed that the index case in the state has been discharged from the treatment/isolation centre in Eleme.
He said: “The positive index case of the virus we had, by the grace of God, has been discharged. What we have now is another case of a 62-year old person who came in from UK and landed in Lagos, and then, moved to Port Harcourt.”
Also speaking, the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mustapha Dandaura confirmed that the command arrested the pilot and co-pilot of Carveton Helicopters who ferried unknown passengers to the state, adding that the pilots violated the regulations regarding the safety of the state.
He said: “Recall that when this Coronavirus issues started, there was ban of local flight from coming into the state. Since that time we have been monitoring the activities of these private airlines.
“To our surprise, we received an intelligence report that an aircraft has landed at the Air Force Base and that it was carrying some passengers. We have apprehended the pilot and the co-pilot by the NAF commander, that’s why they alerted the chief executive officer of the state who had given an order that on no account should any aircraft land in Rivers State without clearance.
“We don’t know the people they brought, whether they are positive or negative of Coronavirus. Where are they heading to and where they came from?
He commended Governor Nyesom Wike for his commitment to the protection of Rivers people.
“To our surprise this morning, this aircraft landed without any signal or permission from the authorities. We don’t know their mission here. Maybe, they are coming here to sabotage the activities of the state and the security agencies that are putting efforts on ground to ensure that Rivers State enjoys peaceful atmosphere throughout this pandemic period”, Dandaura added.
It would be recalled that the Executive Order signed by the Rivers State Governor on March 19, 2020 suspended flights to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Air Force Base and Bonny Airstrip beginning Thursday, March 26, 2020.
The Executive Order signed by Governor Wike is titled: “EXECUTIVE ORDER RVSG – 01 2020 PURSUANT TO SECTIONS 2, 4 AND 8 OF QUARANTINE ACT, CAP. Q2 LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA 2004 AND REGULATION 11 OF THE QUARANTINE (CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AND OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES) REGULATIONS, 2020.”
PDP Inaugurates 15 Convention Sub-Committees –
Wike Chairs Special Duties Committee
6,000 Delegates Expected To Attend
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention Committee, yesterday, in Abuja inaugurated 15 sub-committees for its national convention scheduled for October 30.
The sub-committees as read by the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Duoye Diri, include the National Convention Organizing Committee, chaired by Adamawa State Governor, Hon Ahmadu Fintiri.
Others are Constitutional Amendment Committee, chaired by Akwa lbom Governor, Udom Emmanuel; Zoning Committee chaired by Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Screening Committee, chaired by former Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
Sub-committees and their chairmen also inaugurated were Screening Appeal Committee chaired by Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Special Duties Committee chaired by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Accreditation Committee chaired by Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa; and Security Committee chaired by former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase.
The Electoral (Statutory) Committee, with Adamawa Governor, Hon Ahmadu Fintiri as the chairman; Publicity Committee chaired by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; and Venue Committee, chaired by Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed are also among them.
Others include: Welfare and Entertainment Committee with Mariya Waziri as chairperson; Transportation Committee, with Ibrahim Dankwambo as chairman; and Contact and Mobilization Committee with Taraba Governor, Darius Ishaku as chairman.
The rest are, Protocol Committee with Sen. Biodun Olujimi as chairperson; Medical Committee — Nuhu Zagbayi; and Secretariat Committee — Umaru Ibrahim Tsauri.
Inaugurating the sub-committees, Fintiri expressed belief that the October convention would be successful and lead PDP to victory in 2023.
Fintiri said that the leaders and members of the sub-committees were carefully selected to organize a credible convention for the party.
The Adamawa governor urged them to make the necessary sacrifices to deliver the best convention to the party.
Fintiri, fielding questions from newsmen after the inauguration, said that by PDP’s new constitution, over 6,000 delegates were expected at the convention.
“We are fully prepared for that. We are expecting everybody in every ward that is a delegate to attend the convention.”
He said that the sub-committees had been given directions and they were expected to go back, adequately prepare and submit their report to the main committee for approval.
On which part of the party’s Constitution would be amended, Fintiri said he could not pre-empt the Constitution Sub-Committee, but allow them do their job.
On how far the zoning committee had gone after the one-week appeal he gave them, last week, Fintiri said the committee was in a meeting in Enugu carrying out its responsibilities.
“You can see the party is working, and it is a turning point for all of us,” Fintiri said.
According to him, the leadership tussle in the party has largely been addressed even as he came short of saying the PDP has moved on from the crisis.
He said, “We are moving on. I am the chairman of the convention committee and you can see that we are doing our work. Everybody is happy and participating. I don’t see any crisis in this party.”
The party’s national elective convention is slated for October 30 and 31 this year in Abuja.
RSG Recommits To Building Agric Sector
The Rivers State Government has said that it was committed to building the agricultural sector and utilise the huge potentials the state has for the benefit of Rivers people.
The state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, stated this while speaking at a seminar of the Norwegian Seafood Council at Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, Wike said, “In the face of dwindling oil prices, and the need to diversify the economy, we see a lot of potentials in the seafood industry especially post Covid-19. This is an important industry for creating employment opportunities, generate revenue and boost economic activities in our area”.
Wike, who said that Rivers State was one of the coastal states in the Niger Delta endowed with valuable seafood resources, revealed that Norway and Nigeria have had a long history of relationship and trade.
According to the governor, “Rivers State, known as the oil and gas hub of Nigeria, is open to do business in all sectors including maritime and welcome more partnerships and investments from stakeholders who wish to do business in the state”.
Wike further said, “In the effort to grow our economy, the Government of Rivers State supports making laws that work for us all, by putting laws in place to improve society’s efficiency. Hence, the assent and signing of the VAT law”.
The Rivers State chief executive, who commended the Norwegian Seafood Council for conducting the seminar in the state, stressed that stock fish was enjoyed across Rivers State by all groups, including low and high earners, while both men and women are involved in the sales in our markets.
“I believe this seminar will examine the many advantages and gains of seafood as well as anticipated support from the Norwegian Embassy in the areas of encouraging deep sea fishing, trawlers, good storage for sea products, training to grow and nurture fish production standard, fish ponds and open fish farms, use of technology and encouragement, support to artisan farmers.
“We believe that the gains for removing stock fish and stock fish heads from the list of items not valid for the FX windows far outweigh the losses if any.
“For all the reasons stated above and many more, we anticipate Federal Government and the CBN’s removal of stock fish and stock fish heads from the list of items not valid for the Central Bank of Nigeria FX window”, Wike further stressed.
In his remarks, the Ambassador Royal Norwegian Embassy, Knut Lein, who described the history of stock fish in Nigeria and Norway as fascinating, said it creates a bond between both countries, and expressed the desire to foster increased cooperation, build on bilateral relations and inform the government of Norway about the opportunities in the country.
He said, “together we could create lots of jobs”, insisting that “doing what we can to promote stock fish trade was a win-win for all of us”.
Highlights of the occasion were the presentation of papers by the Director Africa, Norwegian Seafood Council, Mr. Trond Kostveit, and other stakeholders.
The Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Knut Lein, had earlier paid a courtesy call on Governor Nyesom Wike, at the Government House in Port Harcourt, where the state chief executive expressed the state government’s desire to continue to partner with the Norwegian Embassy to facilitate economy growth and development of both countries, and the state in particular.
Encourage States To Harness Own Resources For Dev, Wike Tasks FG
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said Nigeria must encourage federating states to harness their resources and generate revenues, including Value Added Tax (VAT) to advance their development.
He also stressed that it was baffling to note that Rivers State was not included among states to benefit from any of the projects to be executed with the fresh loan that the Federal Government was seeking to obtain from the World Bank.
Wike made the observation when the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, led a delegation to present letter of nomination to him as the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award at Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The Rivers State governor observed that there were mounted attempts to frustrate federating states like Rivers, to actualise the constitutional provisions that empower them to harness their resources and revenues, particularly VAT.
The governor decried the situation where the legality of states collecting VAT was not considered on the merit of the law by some public commentators, including state executives, rather, they were politicising it and looking at it from prism of ethnicity and religion.
According to Wike, what the FIRS was doing was illegal, and could be likened to robbing some states to pay others.
“You don’t even need to be a lawyer to know that VAT is not in Items 58 and 59 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Everybody knows that. It is not even in the Concurrent List. Therefore, it falls under the Residual List. It is not arguable. That yesterday, nothing happened, does not mean that today, nothing will happen or tomorrow, something will not happen.
“Nigeria should encourage states to be strong enough to have resources to develop themselves. We are in a federal system where we are practicing unitary system. Everybody at the end of the month will run to Abuja to share money. Nobody comes back to the state to think, how do I develop my state.”
He explained that the contest against the collection of Valued Added Tax (VAT) was started by Lagos State, which had sued the Federal Government at the Supreme Court.
According to him, Rivers State only avoided their pitfall by suing the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which is an agency of the Federal Government that was illegally collecting the tax in the state.
“The issue of VAT did not start from Rivers State. It started in Lagos State when Lagos State challenged it in Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court said you (Lagos) shouldn’t have sued the Federal Government. All you would have done was to sue the agency.”
The governor observed that rather than commend Rivers State Government for seeking to entrench fiscal federalism and constitutionalism, a particular state governor had threatened that the judgement of the court that declared that states, and not FIRS, are entitled to collect VAT within their jurisdiction, will not stand.
He urged those demanding for a brothers’ keeper consideration to first, appreciate the position of the law and situate it rightly.
“Some people say, ‘be your brother’s keeper’. I have no problem in being my brother’s keeper, but why not come out and say, let us tell ourselves the simple truth: as it is provided in the law, who is the person responsible to collect the VAT?
“When you agree to that, that it is the state, then, we can sit down to look at the different problems of states. And not to say ‘be your brother’s keeper’ while you’re doing an illegal thing, in disobeying what the law says you should not do.”
Wike stated that it was sheer act of discrimination for the Federal Government not to include Rivers State as one of the states that will benefit from projects for which it was seeking fresh foreign loans to execute.
“Look at the money that Federal Government has gone to borrow from the World Bank. Of all the projects, in all the states, Federal Government did not include Rivers State.
“Look at the list of projects that states will benefit from this money they’re borrowing from the World Bank that they have sent to National Assembly for approval, the only state that is not benefitting is Rivers State”.
He further noted, “It is the prerogative of Mr President; if he says he does not like Rivers State, if the ruling party says they don’t like Rivers State, I won’t kill myself. But leave the one that the law says I should be the one to collect so that I will be able to develop my own state.”
Speaking further, Wike explained that beyond the provision of infrastructure, his administration was seeking a law that would provide comfortable accommodation for judicial officers on retirement.
The reason, he said, was to ensure that, while in service, the judicial officers can concentrate on their jobs without cutting corners, and avoid corrupt practices.
In his remarks, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, said the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award was the flagship of award the company.
According to him, Wike was unanimously selected for his remarkable contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria and promotion of fiscal federalism with his position on VAT, which would help in the restructuring of Nigeria.
“Today, His Excellency has guided Nigeria to true federalism with the issue of VAT. Knowing what fiscal federalism should be, His Excellency went to court to challenge the collection of VAT, and the court stated that actually the states should collect VAT. And that is laying the foundation for true federalism and fiscal federalism”, he said.
Ukeh commended Wike for his sterling performance in office and infrastructural revolution taking place in Rivers State.
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