Revealed! How Constitution Airways Defy COVID-19 Flight Ban To Fly Wealthy Nigerians Overseas
Some constitution airways have begun providing providers to members of the general public regardless of a ban on worldwide flights by the Federal Authorities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
It was additionally learnt that some industrial flights that had been contracted by overseas missions to evacuate stranded residents from Nigeria had been additionally getting used to convey passengers at an additional payment.
In line with a number of Ministry of Aviation and airline sources, a number of Nigerians and foreigners have been travelling in and in a foreign country by way of the personal constitution and evacuation flights.
A prime supply on the Ministry of Aviation informed Sunday PUNCH that the method of searching for approval from the ministry had turn out to be very straightforward and porous therefore the present growth.
Whereas passengers with very deep pockets patronise constitution airways, others with out the means be part of evacuation flights which were commercialised.
“In case you have a legitimate American residence/passport or British visa and the fitting cash, I get you on a flight by Sunday morning,” a supply within the ministry boasted.
When requested to clarify, he acknowledged, “If you personal a personal jet, all it is advisable do is write a letter to the minister indicating that it is advisable journey for medical causes. And also you can be given approval virtually instantly. As soon as you’re given the approval, you possibly can add individuals to the flight beneath the guise that they’re your private workers or relations.
“These people who find themselves supposed household members or private aides are literally passengers who may pay you between $four,000 and $eight,000 and typically $14, 000 relying in your vacation spot and the form of aeroplane you’re flying.”
The official defined that no person actually investigates who’s being conveyed on the airplane.
He recalled what occurred within the case of Musician, Azeez Fashola, aka Naira Marley, who travelled with a number of others from Lagos to Abuja to attend a live performance in the course of the ban on native flights.
The official added, “If you happen to recall the case of Naira Marley, Government Jet Providers which flew him had acquired approval from the ministry beneath the guise that it was flying an Attraction Court docket Choose, Justice Adefope Okogie, from Lagos to Abuja.
“The names of Naira Marley and 9 others had been on the record however totally different names got to the management tower by the captain and all the things went easily and they’d have bought away with it if not for the controversy generated by the live performance. That’s how issues have been happening within the aviation sector currently.”
On the evacuation flights, the official additional defined that some officers of overseas missions had been colluding with some worldwide industrial airways to fly Nigerians out and in of the nation.
He defined that when some flights come for evacuation, in addition they take some Nigerian residents at a distinct and dearer payment.
The official acknowledged, “Most occasions, when they wish to evacuate overseas nationals, the ambassador of the overseas nation would write to the Ministry of International Affairs and the approval is often automated, primarily based on worldwide legislation.
“As soon as they get the approval, a letter is despatched to the Ministry of Aviation which provides the ultimate approval. These approvals are given mechanically. As soon as the planes arrive, they evacuate their residents together with Nigerians who’ve legitimate visas. Don’t you discover it unusual that extra evacuations are happening now than in the course of the lockdown itself?
“Have you ever requested your self why throughout this ban on flights, a number of artistes and VIPs have been travelling to provide delivery overseas?
“I do know a number of worldwide airways which were doing this. The 2 largest culprits are primarily based in Western Europe. They arrive frequently beneath the pretext that they need to evacuate after which transfer Nigerians together with them.”
A former chief govt officer of a native airline mentioned many individuals he knew had been travelling out and in of the nation up to now few months by the so-called evacuation flights.
The supply mentioned, “I’ve a pal that has travelled 3 times to america of America up to now 4 months. He simply left Lagos final night time once more on one of many European airways which have been operating evacuation flights. He has American everlasting residence too. So it’s straightforward for him to affix the evacuation flights.”
He added, “It’s common information. Why do you’ve gotten extra evacuation flights nowadays when the lockdown is over? A number of the overseas airways have commercialised it, though these approvals come from their overseas missions.”
Simple approvals for VIPs
A report by Sahara Reporters a couple of weeks in the past confirmed that even in the course of the lockdown, a number of VIPs and authorities functionaries took their households overseas.
For example, the Governor of the Central Financial institution of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, moved his spouse and two kids to the UK on a chartered flight.
In line with the manifest revealed by the media organisation, the jet owned by Government Jet Providers – which was later suspended for conveying Naira Marley – flew Emefiele’s spouse, Mrs Margaret; and his sons – Godwin Pammichukwu Jnr. and Andrew Olisehike Emefiele on flight N104DA from Lagos to the UK on June 1, 2020. The pilot was recognized as Captain Kolawole King.
Seyi Tinubu, the son of a former Governor of Lagos State, additionally travelled on a personal jet – a Bombardier Specific 7000 with registration quantity VP-CBT -on June 7, 2020 from Lagos to Stansted Airport, London, to witness the delivery of his son, Tobias. The airplane was flown by Captain Giannetakis Michail.
Widespread actress, Omotola Jolade-Ekeinde, on July 19 posted a video on Instagram of how her husband, who’s a pilot, flew house their kids from overseas.
She wrote, “Thanks lord. My infants are house. When all fails and your dad has to fly a PJ (personal jet) to come get you himself. Captain Matthew Ekeinde, na man you be. That is to recognize you for being such a superhero. Thanks lord for journey mercies.”
Reserving a flight
One in every of our correspondents who posed as a businessman, reached out to a journey service agency, Etam Avitat Providers Restricted, on the supply of flights to the UK.
He was instantly knowledgeable flight can be out there for two.45pm on Saturday at a price of $four, 500 and subsequently despatched a Warranty Belief Checking account quantity.
Our correspondent was knowledgeable detrimental COVID-19 check outcome would suffice but it surely was not obligatory.
Another journey companies organising such flights embrace April Travels Restricted and www.Wontra.com which presents economic system, premium economic system and enterprise class providers.
Two journey companies, International Hyperlinks and Providers Restricted and FlyBoku, confirmed to one in every of our correspondents on Friday that they had been conducting evacuation (industrial) flights to London and South Africa respectively in separate inquiries.
An official of the International Hyperlinks and Providers Restricted informed one in every of our correspondents on Friday that the Lagos to London flight was scheduled for August 2 and it was a constitution flight with economic system and enterprise courses.
She mentioned, “On Lagos to London for Monday, let me make some inquiries and get again to you. There are some issues we are attempting to type out tonight (Friday). There may be economic system fare at N550,000 for adults, N499,000 for youngsters and enterprise class for N1.1m. Simply put that in the back of your thoughts. Let me get again to you due to this Sallah, we might want to type out some issues shortly. One factor that’s positive is that we’ll nonetheless go.
“If we don’t go on Sunday, we’ll go in the course of the week by subsequent week (this week). If you happen to don’t hear from me on Friday, you’ll hear from me tomorrow (Saturday). Nearly all the things has been put in place. It’s simply due to the general public vacation however let me simply get again to you.
“For Lagos to London flight, you’ll not want the COVID-19 outcome however why we’re asking for it’s for the security of the remainder of the passengers.”
In the meantime, the official at FlyBoku, mentioned, “The one we did (on July 31) was from Johannesburg to Lagos. For now, we don’t have Lagos to Johannesburg.”
On the Fly Boku flyer obtained by our correspondent, the fare charged for South Africa to Lagos was $1,250.
NCAA begins investigation
When contacted to talk on what the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority was doing to sanction errant personal jet homeowners and overseas airways contravening the worldwide flight ban of the Federal Authorities, the NCAA mentioned it will examine the matter.
The company’s spokesperson, Sam Adurogboye, requested for a few of the adverts on such worldwide flights and after receiving them, he promised to ahead them to the applicable directorate for additional investigation.
“Thanks for this. It would assist our investigation. I gives you suggestions thereafter,” he informed one in every of our correspondents.
The Director, Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, mentioned the ministry was not conscious of such incidents in the mean time.
“So far as the Federal Ministry of Aviation is anxious, there are solely two classes of flights which might be allowed internationally into and out of Nigeria. They usually embrace evacuation flights or these on important providers,” he acknowledged.
He, nonetheless, famous that the federal government wouldn’t hesitate to sanction any airline discovered culpable of breaching federal directives as regards worldwide flight operations.
In the meantime, in the direction of the tip of March this yr, the Federal Authorities slammed a N1m fantastic on a British constitution provider, FlairJet, for violating some sections of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Rules.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, mentioned the provider was additionally reported to stipulated authorities in the UK.
The Legacy 600 plane belonging to FlairJet with registration G-ERFX was impounded by the Federal Authorities on the Murtala Muhammed Worldwide Airport in Lagos for conducting out industrial flight operations regardless of the ban on such flights in Nigeria.
After impounding the plane, the Federal Authorities quarantined the pilots and different crew members for 14 days, and declared that each one needed sanctions in opposition to the British aviation firm can be utilized to the fullest.
Journey brokers promoting flight tickets to outlive, says ex-NANTA president
Commenting on the event, the speedy previous President, Nationwide Affiliation of Nigerian Journey Companies, Bernard Bankole, mentioned most journey brokers had been out of enterprise for about 5 months.
Bankole additionally argued that there was nothing completely mistaken with the actions by brokers who promote tickets for such flights.
He mentioned, “If you find yourself very hungry, if they provide you garri, it turns into an appropriate meals, neglect concerning the ban on worldwide flights.
“For the way lengthy are we going to proceed like this? 5 months and counting, individuals have been out of enterprise. That is the scenario on the bottom.”
He mentioned when approvals for such flights come from the Federal Ministry of Aviation after communication with the overseas affairs ministry, individuals use the chance to maneuver passengers into or out of Nigeria, all in a bid to outlive.
Bankole insisted that the scenario on the bottom warranted what was taking place, including that till worldwide flights resume, operators within the downstream aviation sector would proceed to hunt measures to remain alive.
Constitution airways can function personal constitution flights overseas — CEO
The chief govt officer of native constitution airline, who spoke on situation of anonymity, argued if individuals needed to pay for evacuation flights, then the flights could possibly be commercialised after assembly the federal government necessities.
He mentioned, “These are chartered flights. Though worldwide flights have been banned, you possibly can at all times prepare group charters. That’s what they’re doing now. Which means that they can get particular flight permits for one flight and they’ll unload all the seats in each instructions.
“The airspace is open and worldwide flights haven’t but been opened. The federal government can, nonetheless, permit worldwide flights. They name them evacuation flights. Both approach you take a look at it, it’s industrial as a result of the individuals must pay cash.
“However as evacuation flights, the charters must fulfil some necessities from the federal government. Technically, it is just scheduled worldwide flights which might be banned. Each for home and worldwide flights, chartered flights can function. What meaning is that you would be able to apply to the minister to get clearance after which you’ll function your flights. That’s how it’s finished.”
Some Nigerians journey after clearance from three govt ministries – Pilot
A pilot with one of many airways, who spoke on situation of anonymity, mentioned the constitution airways are sometimes patronised by Nigerians preferring much less crowded planes due to the worry of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pilot, who additionally does constitution enterprise, famous that though the nation’s airspace was closed for worldwide industrial flights, a lot of the wealthy Nigerians who had been travelling overseas on their personal jets or chartered plane, had bought clearance from the Ministry of International Affairs, Ministry of Well being and Ministry of Aviation.
He mentioned, “So sure, the airspace is closed for common industrial flights however we will name what’s going on repatriation flights and personal constitution flights. They are going to promote them and name for individuals to come back. It’s a particular VIP flight. However they should have been accepted by the Ministries of Aviation, Well being and International Affairs. The airline can be fined closely if this isn’t finished.
“There are flights for repatriation however if the federal government just isn’t paying, I’ve the fitting to decide on the flight I need. Lots of people gained’t go along with crowded planes.”
Supply: The PUNCH