The planned ban on the acquisition of private jets by the federal government has put on hold a long list of requests from wealthy Nigerians for private jets, LEADERSHIP gathered.
Among those seeking approval from the Aviation Ministry are Skypower Express Airways, whose request for a Hawker 900 has been pending since June 2012. Another company, Dazair, sought approval for a Challenger 604 since June 2012, while the presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, Bishop David Oyedepo, wants a Hawker 900.
The ban, according to the aviation ministry, is to enable it to come up with a new policy on the acquisition of private airplanes, helicopters and other lighter aircraft, which is being worked on.
However, the suspension has sparked outrage in the aviation sector, as industry stakeholders say the ban will derail the gains so far recorded in the industry since the appointment of the current minister, Stella Oduah.
Some operators say the federal government will be infringing on the constitutional rights of Nigerians to own property if it went through with the proposed ban on the importation of private jets.
Captain Dele Ore, Aviation Lawyer and President of the Aviation Roundtable, said he was not aware government had taken such a step to ban the importation of private jets, but cautioned that such a move would only harm the industry and stunt its growth.
He said, “The federal government is the alpha and omega; it can do anything. It is just that the government has the penchant for doing the right things the wrong way. Taking such an action would boomerang on the government because there is no reason for such an action; it is simply being petty.
“The constitution allows people to spend their money the way they want. The right to own property is embedded in our constitution. Placing a ban on the importation of private jets will send a wrong signal to the world, especially on the way we change our policies.
“It is very sad. Policies should not be changed overnight. Policies should be changed in consultation with industry stakeholders. Some investors are looking at starting Maintenance Repair Organisations (MROs) in Nigeria. They are putting money here and will expect return on investment. The government must allow them to invest and should allow the industry to grow. If you place a ban on importation of private jets, how do you expect them to reap on their investments, because the private jets would have to be maintained also.
Another stakeholder, who would not want his name mentioned, said there was evidence of the transformation agenda of the current administration in the previously stagnant aviation sector, but that there is the need to build on the gains.
He however, cautioned that government should not scare away investors as every airline that comes into the country creates jobs and contributes to the growth of the economy.
According to an airline executive who does not want to be named, Nigeria operates a free enterprise and government cannot wake up one day and stop the importation of private jets.
“The ban is not realistic,” he said. “I don’t think there is any truth in that report because we operate a free enterprise and people have a right to spend their money on what pleases them as long as they meet up with government’s requirements for such things - like payment of duties and others. Government would only attract litigations if it places a ban on the importation of private jets.”
On his part, the managing director of Capital Airlines, Captain Amos Akpan, said there was no authenticity in the report that the government wanted to ban the importation of private jets because the pronouncement did not come from the minister of aviation, director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) or any other government functionary. He said he regards the report as mere rumour.
“I know how to give advice and I cannot comment on that because it is a mere rumour,” he said.
The acquisition of private jets has been on the increase within the last three years and Nigerians are said to have invested more than N1.3 trillion in acquiring luxury jets within this period.