Posted by News Express | 14 July 2014 | 4,153 times
Many state governors in impoverished Nigeria now prefer travelling by chartered flights instead of making their trips on commercial airliners, the Lagos-based New Telegraph has reported.
The paper said this morning that its investigations showed that the governors prefer this method of travelling, “which has been described as convenient and time saving, because of security and poor airlines’ schedules.”
New Telegraph quoted sources in the aviation industry as disclosing that the amount of money spent on aircraft charter by the governors runs into several billions of naira annually.
According to the paper, “The minimum amount charged by charter airline operators for a round trip to Abuja from Lagos, which is just two hours, for instance, costs between $16,000 and $18,000.
“This could be higher if the payee spends more than the three-hour grace period given to him by the operator. After the three hours grace for which the aircraft remains on ground, the operator bills the charterer additional $500 per hour.”
Continuing, New Telegraph said: “The resort to charter jets by governors and other top public officeholders has made the business a lucrative one in Nigeria.
“For example, due to the booming business for charter airline operators, the nation’s airports and private hangars are littered with planes which are used for charter operations.
“Many of the planes, including the ones owned by wealthy individuals bear foreign registration numbers such as ZS – PPH, ZS – SGV, ZS-B0V, ZS-PTP, ZSBOT, believed to belong to a former governor from the South, ZS-S0V, ZS-SAH, ZS-PCT and ZS-PKY. ZS is the call sign of South Africa. ZS-BOV and ZS-SOV are believed to be owned by the same person.
“An openly-discussed topic in many parts of Africa is the number of aircraft registered in that country but belonging to Nigerians and are used for charter operations.
“The boom in aircraft charter operations made a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, to impose heavy taxes on charter operators.
“The policy died on arrival as the operators described her action as not ‘sincere’ but meant to generate revenue for ‘ulterior motive’.
“They had in the heat of the controversy petitioned the Senate, which after studying their petitions directed the Ministry of Aviation to suspend the imposition of $4,000 for each landing and take-off done by a private plane in any aerodrome in the country.”
New Telegraph quoted one of the South-East governors as disclosing that he took to flying chartered jets after an aviation official told him that most of the commercial airlines are not safe. The governor said there was the need to believe the source following the incessant plane crashes in Nigeria in a space of three years.
The paper, however, quoted a top official of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as faulting the governor’s claim, insisting that the aviation regulatory body conforms to the provisions of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
It quoted a former Assistant Secretary General of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), who is highly experienced in airplane charter operations, Mohammed Tukur, as saying that the security situation in the country had made this mode of airline business to boom.
Tukur added that apart from governors, wealthy and highly placed government officials have shunned commercial air travel and preferred to fly with chartered airplanes.
“I can tell you that in the past, you would see many state governors, top government officials flying commercial airliners, but these days, you see them at the hangars terminals of charter aircraft operators,” he stated.
Tukur attributed the situation to poor schedule of commercial airliners, adding that many of them do not have schedule integrity. “Take for instance a governor who wants to go to Owerri, Imo State at 2pm or 4pm. He gets to the airport to catch his flight only to be told that the flight had been rescheduled. He accepts that only for the airline to announce outright cancellation of the flight,” he added.
However, while some of the governors have resorted to chartering jets for their trips, others have outrightly acquired luxury airplanes for use. “Among states with private jets is Rivers State, where the Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, in 2012 acquired a brand new Bombardier Global 5000 (N565RS) for use. Last year Amaechi traded off the state’s current Embraer Legacy 600 claiming it was too expensive to maintain,” New Telegraph reported, adding:
“The oil-rich state reportedly owns an AW139 helicopter which it leased to Aero Contractors. In 2011, the state government sold its Dash 8-Q200 aircraft to Cross River State for $6 million.
Cross River State then leased the plane to Aero Contractors to undertake commercial flights to and from Obudu airstrip in the state.
“Taraba State Governor, Mr. Danbaba Suntai, bought a Cessna 208, 5NBMJ to beef up the fleet of the state, which includes two other aircraft and a helicopter.
“Suntai, a trained pilot, crashed the Cessna 208 two years ago, when he was flying it to Yola, Adamawa State. Also, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, allegedly splashed $45 million to acquire a jet, with FAA registration number N224BH, which was manufactured in 2011.”
•Photo courtesy of thinkakwaibom.blogspot.com shows private jets parked at a Nigerian airport.
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