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The Airline Operators of Nigeria has declared that it will cease all scheduled and unscheduled commercial and private flight operations into airports in Rivers State if the government fails to release detained Caverton pilots in 24 hours.

The AON states that the boycott would include oil and gas offshore flight services.

The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers has also threatened to mobilise all pilots both local and international to boycott flying into the state now and post-lockdown following the detention of the pilots.

The groups called for the immediate release of the pilots and an apology from the State Government.

The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, had ordered the arrest of the two pilots for flying into the state despite an existing lockdown order.

The President of NAAPE, Galadima Abednego, stated that while the efforts of the Federal Government in ensuring that Nigerians were well protected from the coronavirus pandemic was commendable, the detention of the pilots on the front line to complement the efforts was embarrassing.

According to Abednego, the detention is an unnecessary humiliation and harassment for doing a service that is essential and vital to the survival of the nation’s economy.

He said, “It is a fact that the flight was duly authorised by all agencies involved from the point of law. One wonders why power tussle between the federal and state governments will override the national interest.

“At this juncture, NAAPE deems the actions of Rivers State Government as an unwarranted attack on our members and is left with no other option than to demand an immediate release of the pilots and an apology from the governor of Rivers State failing which we will direct all pilots both local and international to boycott flying into Rivers State now and post-lockdown.”

Caverton Helicopters had on Tuesday described the arrest and detention of the pilots by the Rivers State Government as unjust.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said it gave approval for Caverton and some other airlines to operate essential flight services during the lockdown.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this known during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The Minister said the Federal Government would do everything possible to ensure the release of the pilots and continued operation in the interest of the nation.

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