By Joseph Uwakwe
Former Rivers State Commissioner for Transport, Hon. George Tolofari, has declared that the state government-owned aircraft, which Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike claimed was abandoned in Germany, was properly documented in the handover notes to the Ministry of Transport in 2015.
Tolofari, who served as Commissioner for Transport under the administration of RT. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi between 2007 to 2015, made the declaration yesterday in a statement issued in Port Harcourt.
He said: “Once again, in his characteristic mischievous style, Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike has sought to malign and attack his predecessor and erstwhile benefactor, the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi by making false allegations.
“This time the governor claims that his predecessor secretly abandoned an aircraft belonging to the Rivers state government in Germany.
“The lie in the Rivers State Government rant is so obvious. 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? How?
“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.
“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.
“We can now all see that the issue is purely political and vindictive, hurling false allegations on the previous administration. That the Legacy aircraft was in RUAG, Germany was written in my handover notes that are in the custody of the Rivers state government.
“In 2015 when they made an issue of Rivers state having two aircrafts, and that one has been stolen, I issued a press release which reiterated that the aircraft was in Germany.
“Sometime last year, a staff of Rivers State government got in touch with me, asking questions about the aircraft. I clearly told him where it was. So, I just don’t understand what this current fuss is about?
“We couldn’t have taken an aircraft to Germany and just dump it there and walk away without proper and formal documentation. Is RUAG, Germany a dumping ground?
“I recalled that Rivers State government had made an issue of the new aircraft currently in use, having a United States registration number, accusing the past 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 7 years after taking possession of the aircraft, they are still using the the same foreign registration. Why haven’t they changed it to Nigerian registration?”