Vanguard (Lagos)

30 May 2014

Nigeria: FG Releases Rivers' Aircraft As Jonathan's Friends Woo Amaechi

A major political drama in the nation's political landscape began to unfold yesterday with the revelation that close associates of President Goodluck Jonathan had advanced moves to woo Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State back to Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Consequently, Vanguard learnt yesterday, the Federal Government decided to release the Rivers State government-owned aircraft grounded by the federal authorities last year over alleged illegal entry into the country.

The Rivers State government is, however, to pay N11 million as fine for the alleged offence.

Abuja, it was learnt, has also approved that the Rivers State government should bring in two armoured helicopters procured by the administration in Port Harcourt to enhance security.

Should he take the bait, Governor Amaechi, it was learnt, would enjoy the benefit of influencing the emergence of his successor in office.

Sources privy to the development told Vanguard last night that the deal could also allow Amaechi to remain in All Progressives Congress, APC, but support the President's re-election bid in which case, the Presidency would push to ensure the emergence of his chosen successor.

The moves to make peace between the Presidency and the administration in Port Harcourt, Vanguard learnt, was spearheaded by close mutual associates of Jonathan and Amaechi, who had been working round the clock since the two men parted ways almost two years ago.

An aide of the governor contacted for confirmation on the development claimed ignorance of the release of the plane and other gestures from Abuja.

"You know, this one is well above me and it is not something I can confirm to you," the senior aide of the governor told Vanguard last night.

However, a non-political associate of the governor with independent ties to Abuja who was privy to the development confirmed it.

The source said: "Take it from me, the plane has been released and it is now in the custody of the Rivers State government."

The plane, a Bombardier BD 700 Global Express Jet, arrived Nigeria in October 2012 and was grounded in April 2013 by aviation authorities over allegation of irregularities in its registration and operations in the country.

Aviation authorities, however, claimed ignorance of the development saying they had not been properly briefed on the issue.

Spokesman of the Ministry of Aviation, Mr. Ojeme Hastings, claimed ignorance of release of the aircraft, saying he was on his annual leave and could not, therefore, confirm the story for Vanguard. He, however, said he should be given up till today to confirm.

Similarly, General Manager, Public Affairs, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, said he had no information about the aircraft's release.

A month after the grounding, Amaechi was suspended from PDP, following his refusal to work with the John Obuah-led executive that was empowered by the courts to take the place of the state executive loyal to him.

The move to woo Amaechi back to PDP, Vanguard learnt, may not be unconnected to the strategic electoral value of Rivers State in past presidential elections.

The state, since the days of the Peter Odili's administration, has continuously harvested two million votes for PDP.

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