Tony John, Port Harcourt
A Chief Magistrate’s Court in Port Harcourt has granted bail to two pilots Samuel Ugorji and Samuel Buhari, of charter air service Caverton Helicopters, who were both accused of contravening the Executive Order of the Rivers State Governor issued to check the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.
The magistrate’s court also granted bail to 10 passengers of Caverton Helicopters who were flown into Rivers by the pilots.
Chief Magistrate D D Ihua-Maduenyi granted the accused persons bail after hearing the bail application by their counsel.
Ihua-Maduenyi in granting the two pilots bail stated that they must present a surety who must be a management staff of Caverton Helicopters.
The court ruled that the surety must own a landed property in Port Harcourt and must ensure that the two pilots attend trial.
He added that the surety would sign a bail bond of N1 million each for the two pilots.
Earlier, the court granted a motion abridging the time for the bail application to be filed following a motion moved by Caverton Helicopters. It deemed the bail application as properly filed.
He adjourned the matter till May 19th for trial.
Counsel for the Caverton pilots Nwokedi Ibe moved a bail application seeking the court to grant the two bail.
His bail application dated April 8th – but filed on April 9th – was supported by a 28-paragraph affidavit.
Rivers Attorney-General Zaccheus Adangor, who appeared for the State, did not oppose the bail application.
He, however, urged the court to set out bail conditions to ensure that the pilots attend their trial.
For the passengers, the court ruled that they should present two sureties who must be management staff of Caverton Helicopters.
The sureties are to sign a bail bond of N500,000 for each of the passengers. They are to undertake to bring the accused persons to trial.
The accused persons were arrested at the Air Force Base, Port Harcourt, after the state’s Police Command received intelligence on their illegal flight into the state.
Addressing journalists, Mr Ibe, the counsel for Caverton Helicopters, said that the basic lesson in the interaction is that there must be mutual respect between the federal and state governments.
Attorney-General Adangor said that it must be noted that the Government of Rivers was not interested in the persecution of the defendants. Hence, it did not oppose the bail application.
He said that the state government was only interested in prosecuting the defendants in line with the law.
He said that the defendants would be released as soon as they perfect their bail conditions.
A Port Harcourt Chief Magistrate’s Court had on April 7th remanded the two pilots in prison custody for allegedly intentionally disobeying the Executive Order issued by Governor Nyesom Wike restricting unauthorised travel and movement into Rivers, a measure designed to check the spread of COVID-19 into the state.
The court remanded the aircraft pilots at the Delta Hotels, Old GRA, Port Harcourt, after Attorney-General Adangor applied for that order.
The pilots were arraigned by the Rivers State Police Command via charge number PMC/532C/2020.