The Nigerian Federal Government yesterday announced the suspension of a private jet charter and aircraft maintenance firm, Executive Jet Services, for flying celebrity musician, Azeez Fashola aka Naira Marley, to Abuja for a concert.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who made this known during the Presidential Task Force briefing in Abuja on Monday, said the aircraft which conveyed the musician was documented to fly an Appeal Court Judge, Justice Adefope Okogie, from Lagos to Abuja.
He said, “The operation is a clear violation of our approval which we take very seriously. It seems this is becoming a norm. This is the second time. So, Executive Jet Services is hereby suspended indefinitely and they will face the law.
“The captain will also be sanctioned for giving wrong information to the control tower. It seems also that people are not tired of trying our resolve and we are not tired of living up to our responsibilities. Governance is a serious matter.”
Sirika said the government would henceforth be more strict in granting approvals for private flights.
Giving details earlier, Sirika said,”Well, we approved a flight, but certainly not for any musician. The flight, from the application was to convey Hon. Justice Adefope Okoji from Lagos to Abuja and back to Lagos, for an official assignment. And in this challenging time, in our wisdom, we considered judiciary to be part of essential services to be delivered. Having to move the Hon. Justice from Lagos to Abuja, was in order.
“The approval was given for the 14th June, 2020. However, we did gave them a window, that is, a leeway of 24 hours, sometimes due to operational reasons. Either they can operate flight earlier or slightly forward within 24 hours. In this case, the operator chose to fly on the 13th June, 2020 at about 6 o’clock. That in summary, it is not a violation to operate earlier, because we gave a leeway.
“The operator is Executive Jet Services and operated from Lagos to Abuja and Abuja to Lagos, for that mission. The approval was very clear. I will read part of the approval:
“From the Ministry of Aviation to the Chairman, Executive Jet Air Services. Signed by the Director of Air Transport Management on my behalf, having duly approved it.
It goes: “I am directed to refer to your letter dated 11th June 2020, on the above subject matter and to convey the Honourable Minister’s approval for your company to operate a return flight from Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja on the 14th June, 2020 to drop-off Hon. Justice Adefope Okoji in Abuja for an official assignment. The details of the flight operation as stated in your letter are as below.
“The second paragraph said: “I am further directed to request to be ensure that this operation is strictly and diligently operated based on the protocol guiding operations under Covid-19, as issued by Nigerian aeronautical authorities, most especially the all operators’ letter issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, with reference as such, and dated on the 28th March, 2020.”
And the key words there are: ‘diligently and in accordance to the protocols of Covid-19.
The Covid-19 protocol has been read severally and we are all aware of it and I have twitted it severally.
The document we gave control tower is also here: “The honourable Minister has granted the approval of Executive Jet Air Services to operate a return flight to Abuja from Lagos on the 14th June, 2020 with 24 hours leeway. Operation must be strictly under Covid-19 protocols. NADC and other security agencies are briefed accordingly.
“The Operation was a clear violation of our approval, which we take very seriously and it seems this is becoming a norm. Perhaps, this is a second time. Executive Jet Air Services is hereby suspended indefinitely. We will also fine them maximally according to the law. The captain of the flight will also be sanctioned for giving wrong information to the control tower and also appropriately in accordance to our law.
“It seems also that the people are tot tired of trying our resolve. We also are not tired of living and rising up to the challenge and our responsibility for keeping everyone us safe.
“Governance is a serious matter. We don’t take things lightly in civil aviation, because it means lives of people. We are highly regulated, we are international and we are one aviation.
“Going forward, we will put mechanisms in place or escalate the mechanisms that we have in place to deter people from doing so. And it also means we would be stricter in our approvals going forward. And whoever dare us would meet his consequences, he said.