Operators of Nigeria’s multi-billion naira air charter business are poised to rake in some heavy cash, as demand for their services is set for a marked rise, due to the upcoming (2015) general elections.
BusinessDay learnt from informed sources that some operators have already received several bookings, especially for between July this year and February 2015 from some top flight politicians who want to shuttle around the country, in the cause their electioneering campaigns which kick-off in a few months time.
A source close to one of the operators told BusinessDay that “even now that insecurity is a concern, many of the politicians and big-wigs in Nigerian politics prefer to patronise them because they also provide their own security, especially when they use their private terminals.
“Apart from that, I think there is a policy that is not too favourable to them; I think air traffic controllers now need to get clearance from the Military Airport Commandant before allowing aircraft conveying VIPs, including state governors, to make use of the Presidential Wing at Lagos Airport.
“So, along with the fact that they need the smaller jets to convey their party officials to rallies and campaigns in other states, the operators may not even be able to accommodate all the charter flight requests coming from the politicians”, he said.
According to a list of airlines possessing the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) released recently by Fola Akinkuotu, director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) there are 13 non- scheduled operators (private operators) with small to mid range jets operating in Nigeria.
Many of the operators such as Jedair, Execujet, Kabo Air, King Airlines, Max Air, and Odengene Air Shuttle Services Limited, among others, operate light, midsize and large-cabin business jets within Nigeria.
It was further gathered that a number of state governors, especially from the South-South geo-political zone, now own private jets, and that their campaign shuttles will yield revenue for owners of private terminals.
Some analysts estimate that politicians will spend over N15 billion on private jet rentals and operations between July 2014 and February 2015, adding that in a period of 11 weeks preceding the April 2011 elections, politicians spent approximately N2.52bn on charter operations.
In October 2013, the nation’s air charter business was dented by the crash of a chartered plane (Brazilian Embraer 120) belonging to Associated Aviation at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, which killed 15 out of the 20 persons on board.
But experts advise that the operators should now prioritise maintenance and focus on safety programmes, to restore confidence in their operations, even-though, they are luxury carriers.
Meanwhile, the NCAA and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), had imposed new fees on charter operators, alleging that they (the operators) had evaded tax over the years.
The charges were eventually reviewed from $5,000 and $4,000 to $3,000 and $2,500 for foreign and local operators respectively.
Government asked all foreign registered aircraft engaging in non-scheduled operations to pay $3,000 while Nigerian registered counterparts would pay $2,500 for every departure.
It said new charges constituted a luxury tax which was acceptable internationally for the type of services offered by these private and buiness jet operators.
It also added that the charges were being used to maintain highly exclusive facilities provided at the luxury terminals, including limousine services (as in the case of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja).
Speaking on the matter earlier, Olumide Ohunayo, a travel analyst said, ‘The non schedule operators are the honeycomb of civil aviation, the world over.
By: Sade Williams