…How states' resources are squandered on chartered flights
By our reporters
Except for a few serving governors, billionaire pastors and a few ex-governors in the national assembly, most private jet owners may have started re-adjusting their spending pattern, as Africa’s largest economy slumped into second recession in five years.
AbujaCityJournal check reveals that some top players in the once blossoming luxury class have begun to take the exit route, either by converting their jets to commercial use or surrendering ownership to various leasing companies.
Meanwhile, some state governors, who have squandered tax-payers money on chartered flights, are also finding governance tough in their various states due to paucity of funds. A credible source at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority confirmed to our reporters on Thursday that most of the initial private jet owners have voluntarily given up such ownership because of their inability to pay maintenance charges. Before the recession, the coronavirus pandemic which called for lockdown, was said to have stressed the owners so much that paying for maintenance charges had become a herculean task.
An NCAA official, who was not authorised to speak, confided in AbujaCityJournal at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on Friday, saying “The global practice is that if the air buses are on ground, owners will pay maintenance fee for parking. If they operate in the air, they will pay navigational service charges.
Besides, maintaining the air engines involves importation of spare parts and, considering the disparity in naira/dollar exchange, it has become a huge challenge for owners to order for spare parts. All these, coupled with the hike in the price of aviation fuel, are frustrating many politicians and business men who were once leaders in business and politics with scarcity of money to play with.”
However, the officer was quick to add that while some business men and politicians, currently not financially buoyant, are giving up, a new set of politicians, especially some serving governors and ex-governors in the National Assembly have joined the parvenu group of the creme de la creme who see private Jets as a toy for the big boys.
Until recently when the economy nosedived, some of Nigeria’s billionaires can even boast of owning more than 1 or 2 of these luxurious properties. For instance, a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, was recently reported to be in possession of the most expensive jet in Nigeria which is the Gulfstream G650 which is worth $75million (₦27.1Bn). Then, Kalu, now a Senator of the Federal Republic was said to have 5 private jets to his name and possession and the most owned by any Nigerian. He also owns 3 Gulfstream IV and a Bombardier’s Global EXP XRS.
Former Governor of Borno State Ali Modu Sheriff who served two consecutive terms (he was the first Borno State governor to do so) was also once reported to have four private jets - one Gulfstream G650 and three Dorniers. The 3rd most expensive private jet in Nigeria is the Gulfstream G550 and the Gulfstream VG450, owned by Bishop David Oyedepo. In all, the man of God was once reported to have 4 private jets, including Gulfstream G650, Bombardier Challenger 605, under his registered Dominion Airline.
It is reported that as of today there are around 35 owners of this luxurious choppers. Findings have however shown Nigeria remains the country with the highest number of Airbus owners in the whole of Africa. It is stated that more that $6.5 billion has been spent on private jets in the country. The top owners of private jets in the country are bankers, oil magnates, business moguls, pastors, and politicians. As a result of this trend, analysts have concluded that Nigeria’s private jet market is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
Between 2007 and 2012 demands for private jets by Nigerian class of the rich rose by 650 percent.
According to an analyst, in year 2000 Nigeria had 20 private jets shared among the presidency, NNPC, Shell and few individuals. That time former President Olusegun Obasanjo and EFCC would sniff the accounts of any politician and business man that ventured to buy a plane.
Between 2007 and 2015, this number reportedly increased exponentially as corruption and access to easy money gained ground during both the Yar'adua administration and the Jonathan government which showed no interest in fighting corruption.
Early 2015, the Guardian reported a total number of private jets at 200 and still counting with new orders placed in markets across US and Canada.
Today, as the economy bites harder, some of the money bags are offering their private jets for chartered flights. In some cases, a few of them have reached agreement with some commercial airlines operators, who use the jets for commercial purposes.
According to AbujaCityJournal findings, at a time when things were no more auguring well for a former Managing Director of the rested Oceanic Bank, Mrs Cecelia Ibru, she quickly reached out to Euro Contractors, owned by the family and handed over her once treasured private jet for commercial uses. It was also under such arrangement that Naira Marley got the service of Executive Jets Services (ExecuJet) in June 2020, which airlifted his crew to Abuja. The relationship however later turned sour as the Ministry of Aviation suspended the company for security breach.
Speaking to AbujaCityJournal, an Aviation industry analyst, Biodun Komolafe, cleard the air about conversion of private jets for commercial purposes. “It’s a global rule that a jet registered for private use cannot operate as commercial flights. However, the moment a private jet owner realises he or she cannot maintain it again, such a person can sell it off or allow the leasing company to take over. It happens all over the world, not only in Nigeria. The problem in Nigeria is that some state governors often join the bandwagon, even when they know the states they govern have little resources. The implication of this is that it becomes a burden on the meager resources and provision of basic social amenities will become a problem for the governors,” Komolafe stated.