It has been revealed that the planned ban on the purchase of private aircraft by the Federal Government has stalled a long list of requests by wealthy Nigerians for private jets.
Top on the list of those seeking approval from the Ministry of Aviation are the presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo who wants a Hawker 900. Others are Skypower Express Airways and Dazair who have made requests for a Hawker 900 and a Challenger 604, both since June 2012.
The ban, according to the aviation ministry, is to enable it come up with a new policy on the acquisition of private airplanes, helicopters and lighter aircraft, which is already in progress.
However, the suspension has elicited negative comments from stakeholders in the aviation sector who say that the ban will erode the gains recorded so far in the sector since the appointment of the current minister, Stella Oduah.
Some operators even say that the Federal Government will be infringing on the constitutional rights of Nigerians to own property if the ban on the importation of private jets went ahead.
Captain Dele Ore, Aviation Lawyer and President of the Aviation Roundtable, said he was unaware that the 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 did not want his name in print, said that there is need to build on the gains on the evident transformation of the previously stagnant aviation sector by this administration.
However, he cautioned that the government should not scare away investors as every airline coming into Nigeria creates jobs and contributes to the economy.
Another airline executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Nigeria is a free enterprise and as such, government cannot just wake up one day and ban 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.”
In his own opinion, the managing director of Capital Airlines, Captain Amos Akpan, said that there was no truth 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.