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S-H-O-C-K-E-R: Political office holders squander N5 billion annually to fly private jets

Interestingly, political office holders in the country, especially governors and ministers splashed over N5 billion annually to fly state of the art private jets to destinations within the country and overseas. ENCOMIUM Weekly’s check revealed that big wigs have embraced a new way of flying in state-of-the-art private jets without necessarily owning them.

The new private jet ownership model called time-share lease, which is fast gaining ground among the political elite, has seen over 30 new private jets in the country, carrying mostly ministers, governors and some top government and private sector shots. And these jets are worth over N80 billion in total.

Investigations revealed that some European companies and a few Nigerian private jet firms are behind the time-share private jet lease business model.

It was learnt they introduced the model to the country to enable them make money from the political class.

Time-share private jet lease, also called fractional jet ownership, provides individuals, companies and corporations a way of enjoying the benefits of a private jet anytime they want it, according to Wikipedia.

Time-share ownership comes in various models. Some come as a way of making use of the jets for certain hours in a month without necessarily owning it. Others may involve joint ownership with others, Wikipedia notes.

It was also gathered that the fear of scandal and fraud allegation as a result of the outright ownership of private jets has made some serving ministers and governors to embrace the time-share lease arrangement.

A top aviation official explained, “What European companies and some few Nigerian private jet companies are doing now is to engage in time-share private jet lease agreement with members of the political class, especially minister and governors.

“Through this time-share lease arrangement, many ministers and governors now have access to the use of private jets, as much as they want without necessarily buying or owning them. It is a smarter way to save them from scandals and fraud allegations that may greet the outright purchase of a jet by political office holders.”

The official further said, “Some of them buy as much as 15 hours or more in a month. For example, some buy 15 hours a month for six months; this equals to 90 hours. They make that payment at once. In a year, some pay as much as $500,000 or $1m. Thus, 30 private jets gross over N5 billion.

“The companies ask for their schedule and make the jets available to them regularly. This is the kind of deal the private jet companies are closing with some ministers and governors to enable them make use of the private jets regularly without actually owning them.”

Sources said the private jets firms have been making millions of dollars from ministers, governors and other top political actors in the country on annual basis through this arrangement.

The revelation came on the heels of recent reports that a serving minister, who is believed to be close to the Presidency, had spent millions of dollars in the last two years flying a Bombardier Challenger 850 plane.

An aviation group, whose contacts are yet to be ascertained, had carried out a newspaper advertorial alleging that the Challenger 850 plane, with registration number OE-IRA, had been used to fly the minister in question to several destinations since 2012, when the jet came into use

Information available to ENCOMIUM Weekly revealed that the plane was registered in Austria.

Apart from the Bombardier Challenger 850 in question, aviation officials listed other brands of private jets being flown by members of the political class in the country as Cessna Citation Jet 3, Cessna Citation Sovereign, Embrear Legacy Jet and Hawker Sidley.

It was learnt that the jets had foreign registration to allow the ministers, governors and other users easy flight access across Europe and other parts of the world since there would not be any need to get flight clearances for each European country whenever they needed to fly across continents.

According to industry stakeholders and aviation experts, time-share lease agreement for private jets was introduced by a company owned by Warren Buffet some years ago.

The model is said to be popular in the Middle East as most wealthy Arabs, who do not want to own private jets make use of the arrangement. The model is gradually gaining ground in Africa, particularly among the political class in Nigeria.

The Chief Executive, Finum Aviation Consultancy, Mr. Sheri Kyari, said public office holders in the country had for long been doing things that were detrimental to the development of the aviation industry and the economy in general.

He said, “There are many things that these our government officials are doing that are harmful to our economy; that is why we see a situation where a lot of projects are left undone, or left midway without completion.

“For instance, the number of private jets operating in the country is too much, and the maintenance of these jets is biting deep into the nation’s purse.

“The fact is that if these government officials are leasing these planes from foreigners and are using their personal funds to maintain them, it is bad for the economy; and if they are using government’s money, then it means they are depriving the citizens of the country and using it for their pleasure.

“There are a lot of things that our government should focus on. For instance, we do not have the capacity to meet up with the needs of the citizens in various areas yet, our government officials are engaging in activities that drain the economy, it is rather unfortunate.”

– FEMI OYEWALE

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