A few wealthy Nigerians spent at least $225 million acquiring private jets between March 2010 and March 2011, a Nigerian newspaper reported yesterday. According to the report published by the Punch Newspaper, a couple of the acquisitions were made by billionaires Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga.

Last year, Dangote acquired a US$45 million Bombardier jet as a gift to himself on his 53rd birthday, while Mike Adenuga purchased a Bombardier Global Express XRS. Both Dangote and Adenuga own at least two private planes each. Apart from wealthy business tycoons, Nigerian clergymen and spiritual leaders are also joining the very elite league of jet owners.

In March this year, David Oyedepo, a Nigerian cleric generally believed to be Africa’s wealthiest gospel preacher, acquired a Gulfstream V jet for US$30 million. Oyedepo, who presides over the Winners Chapel, one of Africa’s largest churches, now owns a private collection of four aircraft. In addition to his latest acquisition, he previously owned two Gulfstream planes and a Bombardier Challenger Aircraft.

He is also reportedly creating a private hanger to accommodate his flying toys. Oyedepo is not the only Nigerian clergyman to own a jet. Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the revered overseer of Nigeria’s largest congregation, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, is also a proud jet owner. In March 2009, the great man of God spent $30 million on a Gulfstream jet amidst widespread criticism. Pastor Sam Adeyemi, another cleric and founder of the Daystar Christian center, a flourishing Pentecostal congregation which repeatedly preaches financial prosperity, is also a jet owner.

It’s not cheap to own a private jet. On average, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to maintain a personal plane. The majority of Nigerians frown at such flagrant displays of opulence, particularly on the path of their clergymen, given that 60% of Nigerians still live below the poverty line. Paradoxically, the same people who complain about the extravagant lifestyles of their spiritual leaders are the same ones who finance it. Every Sunday, swarms of worshipers rush to the church to give away their hard-earned money to the pastors’ coffers in the form of tithes, offerings and special gifts with the deluded hope of multiplied financial blessings in return. For many, this is but a pipe dream. Deep down, the pastors smile; they’ve got just the perfect suckers.

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