Between 2009 and 2012, some of Nigeria’s wealthiest people have spent about $6.5 billion acquiring new private jets, making it Africa’s biggest market for private planes, according to a new report.
In a report publishe by Nigeria’s leading newspaper, Punch, the number of privately-owned aircraft in the country had risen by 650% in that time period.
In the midst of tight fiscal policies, depreciating naira and general cash crunch, many Nigerians who ordered business jets for private use and charter services have abandoned their orders, THISDAY checks revealed at the weekend.
It was gathered that the business men have decided to abandon the ordered jets until “discernible improvement in the nation’s economy.”
Also many business jet charter operators, who wet leased some aircraft, have returned them instead of paying $350,000 per month as charter service since business has slowed down after election earlier in the year.
THISDAY carried out checks on operators and found that charter business in Nigeria has practically become grounded as governors, ministers and highly placed government officials, who hitherto enjoyed charter services, now travel through scheduled flights or by road.
Consequently, some of those who were prompted by the robust business jet market in the past years and ordered for such jets had to defer payments on them. Some of them were said to have met with the manufacturers to put delivery on hold until further notice.
The operators said the future of the business jet market looks gloomy but expressed the hope that with the expected appointment of ministers businesses will be ignited in the ministries. They, however, noted that it would take some time before the hey days of charter services will return.
It was also learnt that some Nigerians have also taken their jets away because of the on-going anti-corruption probe while some fear that their aircraft might be seized or taken as collateral for debts owed and therefore have ferried them overseas.
“The number of private jets in Nigeria has reduced by 50 per cent. Some Nigerians have just taken theirs away because of the on-going probes. Those who hitherto operated aircraft on wet lease have also returned them because there is no patronage. How can you pay $350,000 a month for an aircraft that may not be operated? The business has gone down drastically.
Governors are facing cash crunch. Some of them fly business class in commercial flights with the principal aids, while the rest go to Abuja by road. Places like Ibadan which records only one flight a day, they plan to utilize that one chance and travel to Abuja. The Governors in Ekiti, Ondo and other states travel to Abuja by road. Sometimes they drive to Abuja in the night,” an operator told THISDAY.
The source said that the situation is worse because ministers have not been appointed, noting that the market would pick up again after the appointment of Ministers.
“Foreign investors are no more coming because there are no ministers, but when the ministers are appointed the investors will start coming to showcase what they have to the ministers. Many of them are warned in their countries not to fly commercial airlines, so they fly charter when they come. I believe traffic will improve after the appointment of ministers,” the source said.
The business jet sector of the market, the operators said, is also kept alive by corporate organisations like banks, oil companies and others but the governors who constituted over 50 per cent of the business jet market in the past now shun that service.
“I can’t remember the last time we were patronised by governors, any governor. We understand their issues. They owe their workers and many of them don’t have money to pay these workers, so how can you be flying business jet when you have not paid your workers; even those that have owed us since the last five months have not paid us,” the operator said.
123 private jets were acquired in 2012 alone by some rich Nigerians even as the vast majority of Nigerians wallow in poverty as the economy goes from bad to worse.
News Express reported that Nigerians who own private jets include politicians, businessmen and pastors.