Since the inauguration of Muhammadu Buhari as president on May 29, 2015, jet charter business in Nigeria has suffered .
Nigerian governors who preferred expensive local and foreign trips on luxury private jets may finally be cutting their coat according to their cloth.
The chief executive of one of the operators, who pledged to be anonymous said: “Before and during the election in March, I would say the charter business hit its peak, but since Buhari was sworn in, there has been a marked low frequency.”
The first aspect held responsible for the change in travel life is the president’s “body language” — a euphemism for the Spartan lifestyle and the anti-graft stance of Buhari who, many consider, will soon release the anti-corruption agencies on public officers.
“Clearly, since the governors reduced their patronage, our business has been seriously hit. That is the major cause of the lull. Without the governors, our business cannot boom,” he said.
A second aspect, another industry operator told the journalists, is the enormous debts states are owing.
He said: “I don’t know of any governor who would want to be caught flying in chartered jets by his banker. Even if the banker does not say anything to his face, you will see the story in the media the following day of how the governor of a debtor state is still flying jets around.”
This is connected to another aspect — the matter of unpaid salaries in many states, some running into eight months.
The fear of getting backlash from unpaid workers has made some governors to maintain a low profile in their travels, while declining oil revenue and heavy poll spending has also contributed largely to the debt overhang.
Though political office owners and public servants have cut their patronage of charter business, those in the private sector are still keeping it afloat, even if at a far low level.
An operator added: “Those who used to patronise charter services from the business sector still do, at least to visit their branches at different parts of the country. But the major clients who are political office holders and other highly placed public servants have gone back to their shells. We no longer help fly their girlfriends around as we used to.”
It is also predicted that as soon as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) concludes its ongoing review, activities will pick up.
The oil industry is the main customer after authorities.
“Because of the present status of NNPC, things are also slow. We are confident things will pick up, even if not as they used to be,” the insider added.
“Don’t forget that much is also not happening at Aso Rock. Everybody is operating at low key. There are no ministers and no contracts being awarded. We expect a change in fortune when ministers come on board.”
Charter operators receive $6,500 per hour for Hawker aircraft type and $8,000 for Challenger aircraft, and charges are usually calculated in “block time” which is not based on “flight time”: an aircraft could wait for long at the holding point on the runway while the client is conducting his or her business.
Out of 146 private jets functioning in Nigeria, 80 % are used for charter services. About 40 operate legal charter services. Meanwhile, about 100 have foreign registration and NCAA recognises them as privately owned but most of them are unlawfully into charter.
Nigeria, being home to the highest number of private jets on the continent, the Federal Government has come up with a newly introduced luxury tax to compel such high-net-worth individuals pay more funds into government coffers.