COVID-19: Police nab 2 pilots for allegedly violating restrictions on local flight in Rivers

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The Commissioner of Police in Rivers, Mr Mustapha Dandaura has confirmed the arrest of the pilot and co-pilot of Carveton Helicopters, who allegedly ferried unknown passengers into the State.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Dandaura made this known on Tuesday at the State’s Police headquarters when Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers visited him.

According to him, the command arrested the pilots, who allegedly violated the regulations regarding the restriction order,  to curb the spread of Novel COVID-19.

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.

“We received an intelligence report that an aircraft has landed at the Airforce base and that it was carrying some passengers.

“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 enjoy peaceful atmosphere throughout this pandemic period.

“We have apprehended the Pilot and the Co-pilot. That is why we alerted the executive Governor of the state who had given an order that on no account should any aircraft land on 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 Gov. Wike for his commitment to the protection of the lives of people of Rivers.

The Executive Order signed by the state governor on March 19 suspended flights to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Air Force Base and Bonny Airstrip beginning from March 26.

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.

Responding, Wike expressed his willingness to set aside his immunity to testify against persons who violate the state’s border closure regulations aimed at preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

Wike said that the protection of Rivers people was an important assignment that must be executed with the seriousness it deserved.

He 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.

He said: “I want to say this is a serious matter to us and police should handle it seriously.  That is why I am here at the state command.

“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 although the state government had no power to close airports, 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 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 Rivers.

He also said that the company had written to intimate his administration on bringing people which he forwarded to Commissioner of Police to perform security checks and the health officials to perform their duties before allowing them.

Wike, who said that his administration was duty-bound to protect the people of Rivers from Coronavirus, confirmed the second case of Coronavirus in the state.

He said the person is 62 years old and recently returned from United Kingdom and entered the State through Lagos.

Wike also confirmed that the index case of the state had been discharged from the treatment/isolation centre in Eleme.

According to him, 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 years old person who came in from the UK and landed in Lagos and then moved to Port Harcourt,’’ he said.

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