On April 26, the aircraft had been allegedly delayed at the Akure airport by aviation authorities due to insufficient and improper documentation.
The Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, said this in Abuja at an investigative hearing on the grounding of the affected aircraft by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authourity (NCAA).
The hearing was organised by the Joint House of Representatives Committee on Aviation and Justice.
According to Oduah, the aircraft with Registration number N565RS, is currently listed on the United States of America Department of Transport, Federal Aviation Administration Registry.
She said the aircraft registration was issued to Bank of Utah Trustee in the United States.
Oduah said that it was standard procedure that unless the Air Traffic Controller received a manifest, an aircraft would not be allowed to start up.
“Specifically, the pilot failed or refused to file a proper passenger manifest declaring the full identity of all passengers on the aircraft and proper flight clearance,” she said.
The minister said that as far as the regulatory agencies were concerned, the incident was an isolated one with an ordinary aircraft.
“The scenario where air crafts are denied start up is a common day occurrence experienced by any pilot who does not meet standard procedure,” she said.
Oduah said that the decisions taken in Akure by the air traffic controller in respect of the aircraft were in compliance with standard procedure.
She said that government had not foreclosed institution of criminal proceedings against the infractions.
On his part, Mr Joyce Nkemakolam, acting Director-General of NCAA, said that documents presented to the agency showed that the aircraft was owned by the Bank of Utah Trustee and not the Rivers Government.
Nkemakolam alleged that the aircraft had been operating into and out of Nigeria on ad hoc basis under its foreign registration.
“The aircraft had sought and was cleared to operate into Nigeria between March 28 and April 2 with 48-hour leeway on the route DGAA-DNPO-DGAA (Accra-Port Harcourt-Accra) with two crew members.”
He said that the operation of the aircraft in the country between April 4 and 26 violated Nigerian regulations.
“Pursuant to this violation of clearance by the flight crew, the aircraft was detained in Port Harcourt by the NCAA,” he said.
r George Feyii, Secretary to the Rivers Government, who represented the state, said the aircraft was the property of the government.
Feyii said the state government only incorporated a limited liability company, the Bank of Utah Trustee to facilitate the transaction.
He said Caverton Helicopter made the application for the import of the aircraft to the Minister of Aviation on behalf of the state government.
Feyii said that due to the arrangement, it was insinuated that the aircraft no longer belonged to the Rivers Government.
“Honourable members, the above represent our position as to the ownership status of the aircraft and shows that the aircraft belongs, not to any other person, but to the Rivers government,” he said.
He said government had been paying all necessary operational charges with respect to the operation and use of the aircraft.
Mr Sola Falola, Managing Director of Caverton Helicopters, denied that the company had no formal contact with the Rivers Government with respect to the operations of the aircraft.
According to him, the company is not in the position to provide any information on the aircraft, its documentation, compliance with aviation laws and regulations.
Rep. Ali Ahmad (PDP-Kwara), the Chairman, House Committee on Justice, directed NCAA to avail the committee a comprehensive title documents of all private Jets and their owners in the country. (