As the price of crude oil continues to drop globally and Nigeria’s oil-based economy threatened, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Finance and the Co-coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has announced measures to cushion its impact on the economy.
One of the measures will see private jet owners paying more tax on their jets as one of the luxury goods and services affected by the austerity measures.
With the latest development, aviation stakeholders are wondering the shape the tax will take, as government has not made known the details.
The private jet owners are made up of politicians, businessmen and clergymen.
Presently, many private jets owned by Nigerian billionaires fly in and out of Nigerian airspace with ease and they are some of the most expensive and the best jets in the market.
Some of the private jets in the Nigerian airspace include Bombardier Challenger 604, 605, Hawker Siddley 125-800 and 900XP, Gulfstream 450, 550 and 650, Global Express, Embracer Legacy and Falcons among others.
Aside the fact that there are about 150 private jets in Nigeria, stakeholders in the industry have predicted that the number of private jet owners is bound to rise, as it is now a status symbol among the rich and powerful.
Be that as it may, investigation revealed that 75 per cent of these jets flying in the Nigerian airspace carry foreign registration numbers, a situation that has made it impossible for the regulatory agency, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to regulate their activities.
Today, you find most of the jets with registration numbers from countries like U.S., South Africa, Brazil, Canada and Kenya instead of the Nigerian call sign 5N; and besides, 80 per cent of the pilots of these luxury jets are foreigners.
In 2012 a report showed that the race to acquire private jets increased by 650 per cent between 2007 and 2012 in Nigeria and that as at 2007, there were about 20 private jets in the country but today, there are about 150 private jets, making Nigeria one of the fastest growing private jets markets in the globe.
As a result, private jet manufacturers, such as Bombardier and Hawker Beechcraft Corporation are now smiling to the banks, as they have found a ready market in Nigeria for their products.
Be that as it may, it is often difficult to officially find out who the owners of the luxury private jets scattered around Nigerian airports especially the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport (NAA), Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, are.
The reason, according to a source close to the regulatory body, is because most of the purported owners of the private jets don’t have their names on any document in the regulator’s custody indicating that the people being speculated are the owners of jet A or B.
The source added that most of the private jets were bought and being managed in the names of established scheduled airline operators, charter airlines with Air Operator’s Certificates (AOCs).
This situation, many believe might work against government’s plan to tax the owners.
However, investigation by Saturday Independent revealed that about 10 notable Nigerians including the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and Chairman of Globcom, Chief Mike Adenuga, lead the pack of Nigerians with private jets.
Others are the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye; Founder and Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church World Wide, Bishop David Oyedepo; the Chairman of Arik Air, Sir. Joseph Arumemi-Johnson; the Chairman of Energy Group, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim; the Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, Pastor Sam Adeyemi; the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Industries, Ifeanyi Ubah; President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, and Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.
A source told Saturday Independent that Dangote has two private jets but that the Canadian made Bombardier Global Express XRS with a Rolls Royce engine was bought for $45 million in 2010.
According to the source, the jet is an eight-passenger aircraft with foreign registration number N104DA.
Oyedepo is said to have three private jets, one of which is a Gulfstream G550 valued at about $55 million as at the time it was bought
As for communications giant, Adenuga, our source said he has two private jets in his fleet, one of which is a Dassault Falcons 7X, which cost about $51million and can carry up to 16 passengers. The other is a Bombardier Challenger 604, which is worth $30 million but our source could not confirm the year they were bought.
The Rivers State governor has a Bombardier 700 Global Express valued at $45.7 million and was purchased in 2012. Though, he said it belongs to the state government, it is one of the most expensive jets in the country.
The man of God who oversees affairs of RCCG has a Gulfstream V valued at $30 million. The aircraft has two pilots and a minimum of two crew and capacity to carry between 14 to 19 passengers but the year it was acquired could not be confirmed.
The oil magnate who is one of those in charge of Transformational Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) is said to have bought the Embracer Legacy 650 for about $27.5 million and it can carry 13 passengers.
The president of CAN has a Canadian Bombardier Challenger 600 valued at about $25 million and was manufactured in 1994. His church members reportedly gave it to him as a gift. It has a U.S. registration number N431CB. The controversial aircraft was leased to the Green Coast Produce Company Limited for the $9.3milion “black market” arms deal in South Africa.
However, the year it was acquired could not be confirmed but it was presented to the clergyman during the 40th anniversary of his call into the vineyard of the Lord.
Cost of maintenance
According to the Managing Director, Finum Aviation Services, an aircraft maintenance outfit, Engr. Sheri Kyari, it costs thousands of dollars to maintain a private jet yearly, adding that apart from scheduled maintenance, the owner is expected to carry out unscheduled maintenance, pay the crew, pay landing and parking charges and pay for the use of AOC, which usually belongs to airlines and other costs.
On the landing and parking charges collected from the private jets owners, a source at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), hinted that the charges are not static, adding that they pay between N120,000 N135,000 depending on the weight of the jet at the time it lands.
He said private jet owners pay parking charges depending on the states, where the owners live and, that FAAN charges them daily.
What this means, according to Saturday Independent investigation, is that if the owner of jet A, for example, lives in Lagos and travels to Kano and parks the jet at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKA), Kano, he would have to pay this charges to FAAN but if he lives in Kano and parks at MAKA, the private jet owner needs not pay because that is where he is based.
At the moment, Nigeria has the highest number of private jet owners in Africa, which has brought into sharp focus the paradox of a nation that is endowed with huge oil resources, but where only a few are wealthy.
Contacted on the proposed tax that may likely be impose on private jet owners, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said the agency has not been communicated on the issue.
“We are awaiting communication on the matter,” Dati said.
It will be recalled that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), late 2013, directed non-scheduled operators with foreign registered aircraft to pay $3,000, while the non-scheduled operators whose airplanes are registered in Nigeria to pay $2,500 per flight.
With the directive then, private jet owners consisting of corporate entities and private individuals were expected to pay $1.4 million annually into the coffers of government.