The Rivers state government on Thursday executed its quit order against Caverton Helicopters.
The chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, Solomon Eke, accompanied by some police officers, executed the order on behalf of the Rivers state government.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mr Eke and his entourage went to Caverton premises at the Nigeria Air Force base where he addressed a handful of the company’s workers before handing over a letter requesting them to vacate the place. He then sealed up the premises.
Caverton workers were not harassed, an official of the company told PREMIUM TIMES. “We have shut our operations down completely,” he said. “Our concern now is how to get the pilots out of detention.”
Caverton also has an office within Shell facilities in Port Harcourt. It is unclear if that too has been sealed up by the Rivers state government.
“I am just carrying out the order of my principal,” the chairman of Obio-Akpor, Mr Eke, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Caverton, a logistics company, provides support services for oil and gas companies in Nigeria, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Total, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron.
Apart from Rivers state, Caverton has facilities in Lagos and in Warri, Delta state.
Trouble began for Caverton on Tuesday when the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, stormed the company premises and ordered the arrest of its two pilots whom he accused of flying “illegally” into Rivers.
The flight was authorised by the federal government.
The two pilots and 10 passengers have been remanded in the Port Harcourt prison after they were charged with disobedience to lawful order – order of the governor on the restriction of movement or flight because of the coronavirus.
Governor Wike has been insisting that people flying into Rivers must subject themselves to health checks to ascertain if they are positive or not to the coronavirus.
“Caverton Helicopters have clearly shown that Rivers’ lives do not matter to it,” the governor said in a Wednesday broadcast. “It is an enemy of Rivers people and is hereby declared persona non grata in Rivers State.
“With this declaration, Caverton Helicopters can only choose to operate in any part of Rivers State at its own risk as Local Government Chairmen have been directed to close their offices and prevent their operations.”
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.
A spokesperson for Caverton, Ayodele Omueti, told PREMIUM TIMES, Thursday morning, that the company was “dialoguing” with the Rivers state government over the dispute.