The Punch

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nigerians acquire N33.75bn private jets in one year - Investigation


Private aircraft ownership is becoming increasingly popular in the country with Nigerian billionaires appearing to be in a race to outdo each other. OYETUNJI ABIOYE writes on the latest acquisitions. As a sign of their increasing prosperity at a time when many citizens of the world are still grappling with the effects of the recent global economic meltdown, more wealthy Nigerians are joining the private jet owners' club.

Nigerians acquire N33.75bn private jets in one year - Investigation


Investigation by our correspondent revealed that Nigerian billionaires had, in the last 12 months, acquired at least six private jets for a combined fee of about $225m (N33.75bn).

The jets were acquired between March 2010 and March 2011, according to a top official of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the subject.

According to the source, those, who recently acquired private, jets are the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Chairman of telecommunications giant, Globacom, Chief Mike Adenuga; and a church, Living Faith World Outreach (Winners Chapel), headed by Dr. David Oyedepo.

The source disclosed that Dangote acquired a Canadian made Bombardier Global Express XRS in April 2010 at an estimated cost of $45m (N6.75bn).

The eight-passenger aircraft, with registration number, N104DA, according to the source, is currently parked at the General Aviation Terminal near the Associated Airlines' hangar.

The source added that Adenuga also bought a similar plane, a Bombardier Global Express XRS, around the same time. The plane is marked VP-CAN, according to the source.

Two months ago, Winners Chapel acquired a new Gulfstream V for $30m (N4.5bn), the source said.

Apart from the three latest jets, the source said there were at least three others acquired by other Nigerians, with each of them estimated to cost at least $35m (N5.25bn). The source, however, declined to mention the names of their owners.

Using conservative price figures, the total cost of the six jets is around $225m (N33.75bn).

The NCAA source said that the jets, which had been registered with the agency, were usually parked at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

The Chief Executive Officer of a chartered airline at the GAT confirmed the purchase of the jets, saying that they belonged to some influential Nigerians and were parked at the terminal.

The Sales Director for Africa, Bombardier Business Aircraft, Mr. Robert Habjanic, had told our correspondent in a telephone interview that more Nigerians had placed orders for jets made by the company.

Habjanic said Dangote was one of the first set of Nigerians to take delivery of the aircraft, adding that a few other businessmen in the country had ordered for the same Global Express XRS business jet, which would soon arrive in the country.

According to airport sources, Dangote and Adenuga's Bombardier Global Express are fitted with latest flight facilities and are one of the most luxurious in the world.

The arrival of Dangote's private jet, it was learnt, coincided with his 53rd birthday.

The jet, which touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, from Canada in a 9.3-hour flight, it was learnt, could travel from Lagos to China non-stop.

Our correspondent further learnt that the latest acquisitions by Dangote, Adenuga and the Oyedepo-led Winners Chapel were not their first jets. Besides these three, the Chagoury Group, a firm formed by a prominent Lebanese business family, reportedly has two private jets in its fleet.

Although maintaining a private jet is very expensive, stakeholders said that most of their owners could afford to operate them.

The expenses include the cost of hiring at least two pilots for an aircraft, remuneration of the maintenance engineering team, routine overseas maintenance, as well as the cost of fuelling; over-flyer, landing and parking charges.

According to industry experts, it costs an average of $550,000 (N82.5m) annually to maintain a private jet.

According to the Chief Executive Officer, Airfirst Nigeria Limited, an aviation maintenance consultancy firm, Mr. Gbolahan Abatan, there are about 70 private jets in the country.

But our correspondent gathered that about 80 per cent (56) of these private jets carried foreign registration, with most of them registered in South Africa, United States and some European countries.

Our correspondent had in December 2010 reported that private jet owners in Nigeria were spending at least $52.3m (N7.8bn) annually to maintain the planes and the expatriate pilots flying them because of the failure of the owners to register the jets locally.