RIVERS AIRCRAFT BROUHAHA

Controversy arising from statement of suspicion on the where about of an aircraft belonging to the Rivers state government, by Nyesom Wike, Governor of the state, is still raging.  

From Clarice Azuatalam,

Port Harcourt

As the war of words rage between Rivers State Government and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state over an aircraft belonging to the oil-rich state, the opposition party has said that the Governor of the state, Nyesom Wike is economical with the truth on what he said about the aircraft.

L-R: Rivers State chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, Ambassador Desmond Akawor; Hon. Marcus Nle Ejii; Hon. Ken Chikere; Christian Karl, Head of Sales, Business Jets, General Atomics Aerotec; Ikwerre LGA chairman, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike; Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike; Markus Froetschi, General Manager, Business Development, General  Atomics Aerotec; Speaker Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani; Deputy Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ehie Ogerenye Edison; Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor and Dr. Ayebaesin Jacob Beredugo, Executive Assistant to the Governor of Rivers State, at General Atomics Aerotec HQ in Munich Germany recently.

Wike had a few days ago,  when he visited Munich, Germany,  informed the world that his government has through intelligence discovered one of the State owned Legacy 600 aircraft, that was flown to and abandoned in the European country since 2012 by  his predecessor , Chibuike Amaechi. Wike said “it was unconscionable for the immediate past administration to have surreptitiously taken a state owned asset to Germany and abandoned same there, without any documentation.”

Reacting to this information, the Commissioner for Transport under Amaechi’s administration, Mr George Tolofari said that there was no truth in what Wike said. He described what Wike said as a mere attempt “to malign and attack his predecessor and erstwhile benefactor, the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi by making false allegations.”

The former Commissioner for Transport explained that “it is simply not possible that a plane that was properly documented in the handover notes of the State Ministry of Transport (which I supervised as Commissioner) to the incoming administration in 2015, can be said to be secretly abandoned?

“When we got the new aircraft that the current government is using now, the older Legacy aircraft was sent to Germany for repairs and refurbishment and then to be sold to generate revenue for critical infrastructural projects in the state.

“To the previous administration, there was no economic sense to keep and maintain two State planes. The cost was just too prohibitive, so the plan was to sell off the older Legacy plane.

“The plane was still in Germany at the time we handed over to the incoming administration. Everything was in the handover notes of the ministry of transport.”

Tolofari further recalled that “in 2015 when the new administration took over, they claimed the same aircraft had been stolen. Today, they are now saying again that the aircraft was secretly abandoned,” pointing out that the issue is purely political and vindictive.

He insisted that Amaechi’s administration took the Legacy aircraft to RUAG, Germany and this was clearly “written in my handover notes that is in the custody of the Rivers state government,” adding that he had subsequently issued a press release to that effect sometime in 2015 to clear the air.

Continuing, Tolofari said that sometime last year, a staff of Rivers State government got in touch with him, asking questions about the aircraft and he clearly told him where it was. “So, I just don’t understand what this current fuss is about”, he declared.

He further said that “we couldn’t have taken an aircraft to Germany and just dumped it there and walk away without proper and formal documentation” as RUAG, Germany is not a dumping ground.

Tolofari recalled that Wike’s administration had made an issue of the new aircraft currently in use, having a United States registration number by accusing Amaechi’s government of wanting to steal the aircraft.

“They accused us of doing an N registration for the sole purpose of wanting to steal the aircraft. They made so much fuss at the time. But till date, which is nearly seven years after taking possession of the aircraft, they are still using the same foreign registration. Why haven’t they changed it to Nigerian registration?”

Tolofari who was in charge of Transport Ministry in the state from 2007 to 2015 reiterated that “the whole information about that aircraft – the Legacy plane, was in the handover notes prepared by the ministry for the incoming administration in 2015, including the fact that the plane was to be sold, because it was more economical to sell it off.”

Firing its own salvo, the APC in the state through its Spokesman, Senibo Chris Finebone said that Wike had forgotten that he told journalists in Port Harcourt shortly after assuming office that he inherited two aircrafts.

Finebone recalled a publication by Vanguard Newspaper of June 21, 2015 in which Wike informed the media at an interactive session in Government House, Port Harcourt then that his administration was going to confirm “the state of one of its aircraft allegedly abandoned by the Rotimi Amaechi’s administration in Germany.”

In the said publication, Wike “said he was sending an aide to Germany to know the state of the aircraft since there was no formal handover to his administration by former Governor Amaechi, it was difficult for the government to make categorical statement on the state of the aircraft.”

The incumbent governor was also said to have informed the media that “he gathered that one of the aircrafts was lying somewhere in Germany while another one was at the Air Force Base, Port Harcourt.

“We are sending somebody tomorrow (today). I got security information that the plane is parked somewhere in Germany. As I speak to you, there was no report, no handover to say this is where it is it. There is another one parked at the Air Force Base. I heard it will take about two months before it will be fixed.”

Based on these, the Rivers APC said that Wike was just crying wolf where none exists.

Reacting to Tolofari’s claim, the current Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim said that he was trying to “deny the truth about the Rivers Aircraft in Germany.”

Like his Boss, Wike, Nsirim insisted that the Rivers aircraft “had been secretly abandoned in Germany since 2012 by the previous administration.”

Nsirim said that Wike’s government discovered the Aircraft secretly abandoned in the European country by the previous administration and told the German officials that in a bid to recover State assets, when he assumed office in 2015, his administration had discovered that the Legacy 600 jet, purchased by the Dr Peter Odili’s administration in 2003 was in RUAG, before General Atomics in Germany and the Germans had obliged him the privilege of coming to confirm the property belongs to Rivers people.

Nsirim further accused the opposition party of “attempting to obfuscate the facts, whenever contentious issues of their mismanagement of Rivers funds and maladministration of the state are brought up” wondering why there was no documentation to let the incoming government know that we have this facility and we sent it to RUAG for inspection.

“Again, I do know from experience that inspection of such facility does not take more than six months. So, if it was brought in 2012, expectantly at least, by early 2013, the plane ought to have come back for use” adding that the previous administration surreptitiously sneaked it into Germany on some very spurious reasons and then apparently forgot it was there for the next three years.

It should be recalled that a few days ago, Wike who visited Munich, Germnay informed that his government “has through intelligence discovered one of the State owned Legacy 600 aircraft, that was flown to and abandoned in Germany since 2012 by the Governor Chibuike Amaechi- led administration.

He accused the immediate past administration of surreptitiously taking a state owned asset to Germany and abandoned same there, without any documentation.

 Wike who led a delegation of Rivers leaders to General Atomics Aerotec in Munich, Germany, where the aircraft had been abandoned for ten years, said  efforts to repair and retrieve the aircraft has cost the State government over three Million Euros.

Speaking during a meeting with the General Manager, Business Development, General  Atomics Aerotec, Markus Froetschi, the governor explained that his administration in a bid to recover State assets, had through intelligence discovered that the Legacy 600 jet purchased by the Dr Peter Odili’s administration was in Germany.

“When we came into office in 2015, we never had an idea that our plane was in your facility. It was a matter of asking questions before we got the information that Legacy 600 belonging to our State is in RUAG, before General Atomics.

“We tried to make contact with you and which you obliged. So, we want to sincerely thank you for not hiding anything from us, because it is the property of the State government.

“This plane was bought in 2003 by the government of Dr Peter Odili, and by 2007 he had handed over to the next government which was my predecessor’s, now, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. While he was in office, by 2012 this plane was brought here. Reasons we do not know.”

Governor Wike said there does not exist any document indicating that the State owned aircraft was flown to Germany and abandoned for inexplicable reasons.

“The issue is, why was there no documentation to let the incoming government to know that we have this facility and we sent it to RUAG for inspection. Again, I do know from experience that inspection of such facility does not take more than six months. So, if it was brought in 2012, expectantly at least, by early 2013, the plane ought to have come back for use.”

Governor Wike, said he had to travel to Munich, Germany with a state delegation to prove that the Legacy 600 aircraft has been discovered and about to be returned to the State government.

Responding, the General Manager, Business Development, General  Atomics Aerotec, Markus Froetschi, said the aircraft was brought to Germany by the immediate past administration and abandoned since 2012.

He expressed delight that Wike took the initiative to repair and return the aircraft to Nigeria for use by the State government promising that his company will be done with general maintenance work and deliver the aircraft to the State government by March this year.

Those on the governor’s entourage are: the Speaker Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani; Deputy Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ehie Ogerenye Edison; Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor; member of House of Representatives, Hon. Ken Chikere; Rivers State Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, Ambassador Desmond Akawor and Chairman, Ikwerre  Local Government Area, Hon. Samuel Nwanosike.

Expectedly, all of them reportedly spoke in support of Wike by condemning the past administration.

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