By Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL)
Governor Rotimi Amaechi
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, please, permit me to make some preliminary remarks on the subject of this press conference. As you all are well aware, the Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) is a public interest law group with membership drawn from the radical and progressive section of the Nigerian Bar; and as a group committed to developing the scope of our public interest laws and advocacy, defending democracy, we have over the years vigorously pursued causes, using the courts and the popular media to further our objectives and to draw public attention to developments that hinder the growth of our public laws and erode the integrity of our judicature.
And now the subject of this press conference. Recall that on the 27thday of April, 2013, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) purportedly acting pursuant to the powers granted to it by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, 2004, as the regulator of Nigerian aviation, grounded the private jet of the Governor of Rivers state at the Akure airport.
The reasons the NCAA gave for grounding the plane were: a) improper customs papers; b) non-presentation of manifest and flight plan; c) expired clearance certificate.
A careful examination of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority Act, 2004, shows that the Regulatory Agency acted within the bounds of the law. Section 7 (1) (j) provides that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority can ‘’prohibit any person from engaging or being employed in or in connection with air navigation in any capacity whatsoever, unless the Authority determines that such person satisfies the requirements of this Act, regulations, rules, orders, terms and conditions made thereunder’’.
Three issues can be deduced, here: firstly, that the private jet illegally operated for three weeks on an expired type certificate. Secondly, the owners of the private jet wilfully and or neglected to comply with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act, 2004. Thirdly, that the NCAA has no record of Governor Amaechi’s interest in the private jet registered.
The shorthand of this is that Governor Amaechi or the foreign operator of the private jet did not satisfy the NCAA’s terms and conditions. Governor Amaechi should simply own up to his error rather than castigate a regulator that rightly exercised its powers granted to it by our rulebook.
There are wider issues this saga has thrown up; and it is about the ownership of the private jet. We ask: who owns it? If it is owned by the Government and People of Rivers state, why was the private jet registered to the Trustees of the Bank of Uttah? Was the private jet purchased through foreign loans obtained from the bank? If it is or it isn’t, what happened to the millions of dollars appropriated by the Rivers State House of Assembly for the purchase of the private jet?
We note that since the saga broke, Governor Amaechi hasn’t provided any satisfactory answers that many public commentators have asked of him; and it is worrying that a Governor who has over the years (these past six years, at least) held himself out as a beacon of integrity and accountability has for two weeks now weaved and ducked the question: are you the owner of the private jet, your excellency?
Whilst we are waiting on Governor Amaechi for answers, we have meanwhile written an FOI letter to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority requesting for: 1) record of title to or any interest in the private jet kept by the NCAA, pursuant to Section 7 (1) (a) of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (Establishment etc) Act, 2004 and; 2) record of registration and actual ownership of the private jet.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen of the press, as responsible and patriotic citizens, we must begin to pose questions and demand answers from our public officials who think that our commonwealth be turned into their private estates and our commons fenced off against the common people of our country. Governance isn’t about self-service or the wilful and illicit conversion of public holdings into private uses.
Today, private jets have become the play toys of our Governors and their friends. At the last count, over 159 private jets occupy private hangers of our airports. In a country where poverty stalks ordinary folks, Governors- from Taraba, Rivers and Cross River to Akwa Ibom states – exhibit such disdain for the condition of the ordinary people of our country. This saga presents us the one opportunity to ask questions. We simply cannot let it slip.
Abdul Mahmud, ESQ
Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL)
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.