Some charter airlines have begun offering services to members of the public despite a ban on international flights by the Federal Government due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PUNCH has learnt.
It was also learnt that some commercial flights that were contracted by foreign missions to evacuate stranded citizens from Nigeria were also being used to convey passengers at an extra fee.
According to multiple Ministry of Aviation and airline sources, several Nigerians and foreigners have been travelling in and out of the country via the private charter and evacuation flights.
A top source at the Ministry of Aviation told PUNCH that the process of seeking approval from the ministry had become very easy and porous hence the current development.
While passengers with very deep pockets patronise charter airlines, others without the means join evacuation flights that have been commercialised.
“If you have a valid American residence/passport or British visa and the right money, I get you on a flight by Sunday morning,” a source in the ministry boasted.
When asked to explain, he stated, “If you own a private jet, all you need to do is write a letter to the minister indicating that you need to travel for medical reasons. And you would be given approval almost immediately. Once you are given the approval, you can add people to the flight under the guise that they are your personal staff or family members.
“These people who are supposed family members or personal aides are actually passengers who could pay you between $4,000 and $8,000 and sometimes $14,000 depending on your destination and the kind of aeroplane you are flying.”
The official explained that nobody really investigates who is being conveyed on the plane.
He recalled what happened in the case of Musician, Azeez Fashola, aka Naira Marley, who travelled with several others from Lagos to Abuja to attend a concert during the ban on local flights.
The official added, “If you recall the case of Naira Marley, Executive Jet Services which flew him had received approval from the ministry under the guise that it was flying an Appeal Court Judge, Justice Adefope Okogie, from Lagos to Abuja.
“The names of Naira Marley and nine others were on the list but different names were given to the control tower by the captain and everything went smoothly and they would have got away with it if not for the controversy generated by the concert. That is how things have been going on in the aviation sector lately.”