Musician's concert visit costs Nigerian charter firm dear

Nigerian private aviation operator Executive Jets Services has had its operations suspended by the country’s regulator following an “illegal” charter taking a high-profile passenger from Lagos to Abuja despite a ban on non-approved flights because of the Covid19 regulations.

Musician Naira Marley who shares a real surname with a judge and confused business jet operator. Picture: Facebook

Although local media attributed the charter to Execujet – part of Lux Aviation – the operator is actually an independent operator owned by businessman Sam Iwajoku and business merchant, Aliko Dangote. The aircraft used was a Challenger 605.

Nigeria's Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announcing the ban said a flight for the company approved but for a different reason and said the pilot had provided false information and deceived the Nigerian Government.

In a statement he said: “The person on that flight conducted a concert. We approved a flight, but certainly not for a musician. The flight was approved to convey Honourable Justice Adefope Okogie from Lagos to Abuja and then back to Lagos for an official assignment. In these challenging times, in our wisdom, we decided that the judiciary was part of the essential services. Moving a judge from Lagos to Abuja was in order.”

Media revealed the musician in question was Afeez Fashola widely known as Naira Marley.

The operator has written to the Aviation Minister to apologise. In the letter the chairman there had been a mistake. According to the letter, the judge no longer needed the airline's services, but the operator claimed that they mistakenly thought Azeez Fashola was Babatunde Fashola, the Federal Minister of Works and Housing, and therefore the flight would be allowed.

Sirika countered that the operator "will face the law" and the captain of the aircraft will also be "sanctioned for giving wrong information to the control tower".

This is the second such instance of a private aircraft operator breaching COVID-19 restrictions, after FlairJet, a British based operator, was found to have conducted a commercial flight without permission. It had been authorised to conduct humanitarian flights; however it landed with passengers at Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport, resulting in the aircraft being impounded.