Rivers Withdraws Charges against Caverton Pilots, Passengers

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Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The Rivers State Government has withdrawn the charges it preferred against two pilots of Caverton Helicopters Limited, Mr. Samuel Ugorji and Mr. Samuel Buhari, and their 10 passengers before the Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate’s Court.
The state government had arrested the pilots and their passengers in the wake of the imposition of restrictions on movements and closure of the state borders to check the spread of COVID-19.

They were subsequently arraigned before a Chief Magistrate’s court on April 7 and remanded in custody for allegedly intentionally disobeying the Executive Order issued by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, aimed at checking the spread of the virus in the state.
The Chief Magistrate Court, presided over by D. D. Ihua-Maduenyi, on April 14, granted the two pilots and their passengers bail.
At the resumption of the trial yesterday, the Rivers State Government, through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zaccheus Adangor, withdrew the case.

A statement issued by the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Paulinus Nsirim, yesterday stated that the state had withdrawn and discontinued the two separate charges: PMC/532C/2020 and PMC/533C/2020 preferred against the two pilots and the 10 passengers on board before the Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate’s Court.

“Consequently, the presiding Chief Magistrate, D. D. Ihua-Maduenyi, has struck out the two charges and discharged all the defendants,” he stated.
The court had remanded the two pilots in prison custody for allegedly disobeying the Executive Order.
However, Caverton Helicopters had denied any wrongdoing, explaining that it received approval from the Minister of Aviation to operate essential services during the lockdown.

But the pilots were on trial on a four-count charge of conspiracy to commit misdemeanour to wit: disobedience to lawful order, intentionally disobeying 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.

They were also accused of conducting themselves in a manner likely to cause a breach of peace by flying and discharging passengers, and for intentionally disobeying the lawful order issued by the governor on restriction of movements and flights within the state contrary to paragraph 8 of the Executive Order RVSG -01 2020.