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Aviation policy: 20 private jets leave Nigeria

By on May 23, 2013

About 20 private jets registered abroad but flying in Nigeria may have left the country barely one month after the Federal Government unveiled a new policy barring foreign-owned aircraft from staying in the country beyond 15 days, aviation industry sources have disclosed.

The 20 private jets, it was gathered, were among those the government believed were being used to carry out illegal charter services in the country in connivance with some local operators.

Findings revealed that the government’s new policy on private jets combined with the recent controversy that trailed Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State’s Global 6000 plane had forced the private jet owners to start leaving the country.

Aviation sources said the foreign-registered private jets started leaving the country following the introduction of the new policy and the controversies over Amaechi’s jet forced the Nigerian Civil aviation Authority to start beaming its searchlight on foreign-registered jets in the country.

A top aviation official said, “Many of the foreign-registered private jets flying illegally in Nigeria have started leaving the country. They are illegal because most of them have been carrying out illegal charter services in the country.

“Now that the new policy on private jets and the controversy trailing Amaechi’s private jet has put a spotlight on that sector, most of them are now fleeing the country. These foreign-registered planes come into the country under the auspices of private operators, and as such, were coming into the country on ad-hoc basis as private operators. But they end up doing commercial business with charter.”

The long-awaited National Civil Aviation Policy, 2013 was unveiled three weeks ago with severe rules for private jet ownership in the country.

Among other stringent rules, all foreign-registered private jets will no longer be allowed to stay in the country beyond 15 days as recommended by the NCAP.

It, however, states that foreign-registered private jets on special mission in Nigeria will be allowed to stay for 60 days following a special approval from the office of the Minister of Aviation.

Part VII of the NCAP 2013, which deals with general aviation (private jets), read in part, “Retention of foreign registered aircraft in Nigeria will not be permitted beyond a period of 15 days from date of entry. However, the Minister of Aviation may, in certain circumstances, grant the extension of this period for up to 60 days.”

Over 70 per cent of private jets in the country are carrying foreign registration, a former Managing Director of Aerocontractors Airlines, Captain Akin George, has said.

Some industry chief executive officers said the new policy might force most of business moguls and pastors, whose private jets are currently carrying foreign registration, to fly the jets outside the country every 15 days in order to comply with the policy.

The other option for owners of private jets with foreign registration is to de-register them and subsequently register them in Nigeria, according to some industry experts.

“I think what the government is saying is that most of these people should go and de-register their planes and put them on Nigerian registration,” an industry CEO, who pleaded not to be named, told our correspondent.

State governments, whose jets carry foreign registration numbers, include Akwa Ibom and Rivers.

The aviation authorities have risen in defence of the policy, saying the government was only referring to foreign-registered private jets carrying out illegal charter business in the country.

Aviation sources said that about 50 private jets were currently carrying out illegal charter services in the country.

But the latest spotlight on the sector has forced many of them out of the country permanently, sources said.

Aviation stakeholders are, however, insisting that the government lacked the legal powers to enforce the policy as some of its sections negate the Civil Aviation Act, 2006.