Sam Amadi, a former chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, has endorsed the action of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, against Caverton Helicopters.
Two pilots working with Caverton, a logistic company which provides services for oil and gas companies in Nigeria, were remanded on Tuesday in Port Harcourt prisons, alongside 10 others, after they were charged with disobeying an order given by Mr Wike.
The Rivers state government accused the pilot and their passengers of flying into Port Harcourt “illegally” after the state governor, Mr Wike, had signed an executive order barring vehicles and flights from entering the state as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus.
The Caverton flight was approved by federal authorities.
The Rivers state government on Thursday sealed Caverton Helicopters facilities in Port Harcourt, less than 24 hours after the governor gave the company a quit order.
Mr Amadi, in a Facebook post, argued that state governors in Nigeria are “chief executives and are not subject to ministerial direction even when the Minister is acting as aide of the President.”
Nigeria operates a federal system of government.
Mr Amadi said “Federalism means that the central government cannot operate to undermine the effectiveness of state power and state government can’t nullify the exercise of federal power once each is acting within its statutory and constitutional powers.”
He said presidents, though powerful, must act within the law.
“Rivers State is right on this fight with the federal government…. You cannot override a governor’s order in respect of a state where he is Chief Executive without formal procedures and in consultation with the Governor.
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“Wike says he was not notified about the special dispensation granted Caverton Helicopters. Wike has first and direct responsibility to protect Rivers residents from the pandemic. He has to be taken along any decision that can impact on the health of the people at this time. It is a dangerous display of hubris or oversight to keep him in the dark especially as he has publicly prohibited movement into and out of Rivers like some other states and in line with federal government directives.
“Wike does not control the airport but he can determine what happens in his state as long as he keep to the constitution and the law. That’s why he is the Chief Executive of the State.”
The minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, faulted the arrest of the Caverton’s pilots and said the federal government would do “everything legally possible” to secure their release.
“All of these flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue to which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary,” the minister said.