Monday, May 13, 2013

Nigeria: Aviation Office Claims Private Jets Used in Transporting Wanted Persons Abroad

A more stringent regime of inspection is underway, FAAN said in a statement weekend.

A number of wanted persons have been smuggled out of Nigeria, transported by private jets, federal aviation authorities have said.

The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria said findings by security agencies proved that private carriers, which receive minimal checks compared to the commercial airlines, have been repeatedly abused, and have been used to illegally convey persons, cash and other effects.

A more stringent regime of inspection is underway, FAAN said in a statement weekend.

"Security operatives have disclosed that many wanted persons in Nigeria were smuggled out of the country with private jets and others sneaked into the country without check as many private jets take off from private facilities at the airports," spokesperson, Yakubu Datti, said.

Mr. Datti said the government intends to monitor operations of unscheduled flights and their manifests following the country's security situation.

The nation's aviation has been hit by controversy in the past weeks after grounding a private plane owned by the Rivers state government-a move viewed as politically motivated.

The ministry of aviation has scrambled reasons for the decision, and has announced a new policy that insists only family members of aircraft owners travel on the plane. Others must have their identification declared well ahead of trip.

The order has drawn condemnation and many believe it is part of the crisis between the Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and President Goodluck Jonathan.

The explanation about wanted persons being flown abroad appears to be a response to that concern.

FAAN did not state a specific case of a wanted person that was intercepted, or the security office that made the find.

Spokesperson, Mr. Datti however lamented the loss of revenue from operations by charter flights and its safety challenges. He said most jets with private licenses operate commercially without paying the regulatory tax because 80 percent of 150 jets mostly owned by Nigerians and operating in the country are registered overseas and therefore exempted from paying taxes and five percent charges to National Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA.

"Charter services by private jets have become a lucrative business in the country because 80 per cent of these private jets have private license, but carry out commercial operation, they constitute safety challenges because aircraft with private license are not subjected to compulsory maintenance checks as those with commercial license are made to do by the regulatory body, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)," he said.

He stated that the country loses over N25 billion yearly from these illegal operations as businessmen bring in aircrafts as private jets, while they operate as commercial aircrafts taking business away from charter operators who abide by the laid down process of chartered operations.

"This explains why our airlines are not growing. Instead of marked growth of our airlines it is the number of private jets that are growing. This is an aberration so government cannot fold its hands and watch this unfavorable situation which has already started affecting the nation's economy, knowing the crucial role scheduled airline operation play in any country," he said.

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