COVID 19: FG Vows to Shield Caverton Hellicopters’ Pilots from Prosecution

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Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika

Olawale Ajimotokan

By The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has assured that that the two Caverton Hellicopters’ arrested in Port Harcourt on the orders of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, for allegedly flouting the state’s lockdown directive on coronavirus will not be prosecuted.

Sirika, who spoke yesterday at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 press biefing in Abuja, faulted the motive of the governor.

He insisted the pilots were on a national assignment, while adding that the Chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha, had also settled the matter by stating that the oil and gas industry was exempted from the lockdown in national interest.

The minister further submitted that the pilots were flying into a military base for a national assignment.

“ I may not be learnered but I am lettered and I understand if any in this case that is none if there is a conflict between federal and state law. I don’t want to argue law on this platform because it is not necessary. Whether the Governor of Rivers State ought to know if the exempted Caverton flight landing in a military base in Portcourt belonging to the Nigeria Air Force; he does not need to know. The pilots would soon be released, will be secured and there will be no conviction hanging on their neck,” Sirika said.

The minister noted that arising from constitutional provisions and the powers of the President the seriousness of the PTF and the way civil and military aviations are operated in the country, the airforce officer, who alerted Wike, when the chopper landed on his property acted ignorantly, just like the federal police officers, who made the arrest and prosecuted within the military property exhibited incompetence.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has attributed the loss of 2019 elections by opposing forces as the reason that are hell bent in crippling the government by resorting to spreading of fake news.

He said after government carried out investigation, it found out that the websites belonged to traced to people who have pathological hatred for the government and country, He such websited were also hoisted outside Nigeria.

“For many of many of them it is about attacking the integrity of some individuals, attacking the programmes of government so that the government will not achieve anything, “ Mohammed said.

He said his concern would be better appreceiated by looking at the pattern of the pattern of the fake news dissemination since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“ I want to give few examples: They said the committee has decided and agreed on the formular to share whatever money is collected, that attack is one every member of the committee as no body will take us serous no matter what we say. They said I said N100 billion had been given to people of Nigeria and that is no hunger in the land. It is to incite Nigerians against the government and against the committee. They also said the DG NCDC had spent a billion naira on text messages, off course they know that he is a key person in the war against COVID-19, so they wanted to destroy his integrity, They also said a particular cleric said the Chinese people are here to actually treat Mr President, who has COVID-19 and also some members of the cabinet. They want to destroy the committee in the firght against COVID-19 and it is so sad that otherwise intelligent people believe them,” Mohammed said.

He served a clear warning to all humanitarian organisations and all human rights fighters saying that no government would watch and allow fake news destroy it.

The Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mustapha said the team had briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the assessment of the nation’s response so far and that as more evaluation of the process continues, the President would be given more briefings to inform his decision on whether to extend the lockdown or not.

He also reiterated his call on state governments not to relax the containment protocols earlier put in place to control the spread of Covid-19.

Mustapha dismissed reports suggesting that he was not aware of the poor state of Nigeria’s health infrastructure, saying he was quoted our of context.

He said; “The Presidential Taskforce, a small committee of us, this afternoon had the privilege of further briefing Mr President on the assessment of our response to Covid-19 and at the appropriate moment we will continue to adequately inform Nigerians of government decision.

“As reported to you earlier in the week, our evaluation of the impact of the restriction order continues. The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 will appropriately brief Mr. President shortly and Nigerians will be adequately informed of the decision of Government.

“In recognition of our shared responsibility as citizens, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 renews its appeal to Nigerians to continue to comply fully and willingly with all the advisories and orders given in this regard. we underscore the deadliness of the coronavirus with all seriousness.

“The decision either to extend the lockdown or not is exclusively the responsibility or the decision of the President. Ours is to provide him with a background information that will inform that decision. Though, I cannot speculate on that now, but looking at what is happening in other climes, you will be able to deduce what might likely happen but I am not in a position to speculate on that. I believe strongly that the information that is required would be made available to Mr President who will look at the holistic picture because it is not only the information that comes from the Presidential Taskforce that will inform his decision. There are other sources of information that comes to his desk as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that will inform his considered decision in this matter”, he stated.