The row over the revised aviation policy that bars private jet owners from flying friends and associates on their planes grew worse Tuesday as stakeholders accused the Ministry of Aviation of acting unilaterally on the matter.
Owners and operators of foreign and Nigeria registered business aircraft, at an interactive session with representatives of the ministry in Abuja, accused the ministry of launching the new National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) 2013 without considering input from the private sectors.
The presidency and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had on Monday traded words over the new policy which the party said lent credence to allegations that President Goodluck Jonathan had dictatorial and despotic tendencies.
Miffed by the accusation, the presidency, in a swift reaction, condemned the ACN for playing its usual pranks with serious national issues.
Also Tuesday, the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr. Segun Agbaje, said Nigerians had spent $3.75 billion on private jets, totalling about 150, in the last 14 years.
The stage was set for heated disagreements between the ministry and the stakeholders Tuesady when Ms. Ene Ita, the representative of the Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, warned that the ministry would no longer tolerate sharp practices by the operators.
The stakeholders countered the warning by accusing the federal government of creating a policy that cannot be backed by law and consequently, offenders cannot be punished.
The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) Secretary-General, Captain Mohammed Joji, described the policy as inferior to that designed by the military in 1988.
Joji said the global trend was to reduce functions of aviation ministries but the new policy had enlarged the responsibilities of the Ministry of Aviation in Nigeria.
According to him, creating general aviation under the mandate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was wrong, adding that importation of aircraft should be among the duties of the NCAA.
President, Topbrass Aviation, Mr. Roland Iyayi, called for a review of the policy as stakeholders were not carried along.
Besides, he said many provisions of the new policy, were wrong and should be reconsidered.
Chairman, Private Flyers Nigeria, Capt. Bala Na’allah, said the policy should not be used to undermine the existing Civil Aviation Act, adding that “section 33 of the Act does not require an owner of private jet to look for a permit from anywhere as stated in the policy.”
Na’allah emphasised the need to prioritise the law against the newly designed policy for the survival of the aviation sector.
The Deputy Controller General, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in charge of Tariff and Trade Matters, Mr. Julius Nwagwu, decried the infringement of Customs duties by the NCAA.
Nwagwu said manifest of aircraft being imported into the country should be made available to Custom officials before further clearance.
Ita, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Aviation Reforms, said the manner in which GA was operated before the NCAP 2013 policy was unacceptable.
She added that the mode of operation did not comply with international standard.
According to her, the meeting was put together to address loopholes in the policy with a view to carrying out amendments.
However, Ita advised the participants to draft their inputs for further consideration and incorporation into the newly revised policy.
She added that the policy would thereafter follow due process before the final approval by the president.
However, at the Nigerian Business Aviation Conference 2013 in Lagos yesterday, GTBank managing director said Nigerians had spent $3.75 billion on private jets in the last 14 years.
According to him, the average cost of each aircraft is $25 million, adding that Nigeria, with a total of 150 private jets, had displaced South Africa to emerge the largest market for business jets in Africa.
He identified the most popular jets common among Nigerians billionaires as the Gulfstream, Bombardier Global Express, Hawker Legacy and Dassault Falcon, among many others.
Most of the jets, according to him, were imported from the United States, Canada, Europe, Brazil and South Africa.
Agbaje, however, said Nigerian banks were yet to invest in the aviation industry because of attendant risks involved with commercial aviation, adding that if the airlines could secure long-term credit facilities from Nigerian banks, it would boost their operations.