The Nigerian Government's regulation placing a ban on international flights during the Coronavirus pandemic is only effective by half measures, SaharaReporters has established.
On March 23, 2020, the government shut the airports against international flights to help curb the spread of the deadly virus in the country.
Announcing the ban, Musa Nuhu, Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said, “Further to our earlier letter on the restriction of international flights into Nigeria, we wish to inform you that effective Monday, 23rd March at 2300Z to 23rd April at 2300Z, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos (DNMM) and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (DNAA) will be closed to all international flights.
“This is in addition to the closure of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano (DNKN); Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu (DNEN); and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa (DNPO) effective Saturday, 21 March at 2300Z.
“Henceforth, all airports in Nigeria are closed to all incoming international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights.”
However, SaharaReporters has closely monitored the illegal movement of private jets into and outside Nigeria by people of means in defiance to the Nigerian Government’s regulation on the travel restriction.
For example, a private jet – a Bombardier Express 7000 with registration number VP-CBT – controlled by All Progressives Congress' chieftain, Bola Tinubu, on June 7, 2020 conveyed his son, Seyi, from Lagos to Stansted Airport, London, United Kingdom.
Captain Giannetakis Michail piloted the luxury jet for that trip.
A former two-term governor of Lagos, Tinubu is by far one of the wealthiest men in Nigeria today.
He has allegedly continued to feed fat on public funds he amasses through cronies he had planted in key public offices across the country.
In February 2019, a group, Free Lagos Movement, accused him of placing his relatives in key positions in the state, noting that the APC leader had turned Lagos to his “personal cottage”.
A member of the movement, Comrade Mark Adebayo, while addressing journalists at the time, said, “It is still baffling to the majority of Nigerians how Lagos State has ended up becoming a personal cottage industry of one individual, who solely determines the fate and destiny of about twenty million people. For almost twenty years now, Lagos has become his fiefdom, with trails of personal aggrandisement, staggering corruption and virtual enslavement.”
The ex-Lagos governor controls two private jets – one through his younger sibling – Wale Tinubu – and a Falcon 900X with registration number T7-JAT to his name.
Recall that the jet registered in Wale Tinubu’s name was at the centre of the controversy at Aso Rock Villa two weeks ago after it was used to fly President Muhammadu Buhari’s Personal Assistant, Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf, from Abuja to Lagos and back.
Upon returning to Abuja, Yusuf was prevented from entering Aso Villa after refusing to embark on a 14-day isolation period as stipulated by the COVID-19 safety guideline.
This led to a crisis and a shooting incident in the Villa that culminated in the sacking of several security personnel attached to the President and First Lady, Aisha, who has since been drawn into ‘war’ with Yusuf and other powerful individuals around Buhari.
Also, during the ongoing travel restriction ban put in place by the Nigerian Government to further curtail the spread of Coronavirus, two children of oil magnate, Folorunsho Alakija – Folarin and Rotimi – were onboard a private jet with registration number VP-CFO from Lagos to Luton Airport, London, on May 22, 2020.
On May 8, 2020, six members of the late Chief of General Staff, Vice Admiral Mike Okhai Akhigbe’s family all boarded a private jet with registration number 5N-KAS from the Muritala Mohammed Airport, Lagos to Stansted Airport, London.
Those on the flight include Okhai-Akhigbe Esiomekhai, Okhai-Akhigbe Uwekhai Eleose, Okhai-Akhigbe Iretekhai, Akhigbe Ogionwo and Akhigbe Aikenosi.
On May 16, 2020, Karl Olutokun Toriola, Vice President, West and Central Africa of MTN, was onboard a private jet with registration number FLJ611 from Spain to Nigeria with Lagos lawyer, Aisha Rimi, and four other persons.
Toriola had earlier boarded another private jet with registration number D-AWIN from Lagos to London on April 18, 2020 – weeks after Nigeria’s international airports were ordered closed by the government.
Rimi is the wife of former Lagos Commissioner for Tourism and sitting Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Folarin Coker.
In March 2018, they were at the centre of a major scandal involving the diversion of the sum of N3bn from an account of Lagos State Government.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told a court that the money was diverted from the account of Lagos State Government Number Plate Production Authority when Coker was the managing director.
The money was paid into the account of the company allegedly owned by Rimi.
Findings by SaharaReporters also revealed that Belo-Osagie Yasmin, daughter of billionaire, Hakeem Belo-Osagie, a former chairman of the board of directors of United Bank for Africa, was the only passenger in a private jet with registration number D-CAWX, which flew from London to Nigeria on May 8, 2020.
The estimated cost of the trip was $100,000 – N38.7m – when converted to Nigeria’s currency.
On Monday, SaharaReporters had exclusively reported that Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Godwin Emefiele, violated President Buhari’s travel restriction ban and Quarantine Law to fly his wife and kids to London on a Global Express Bombardier 550 luxury jet with registration number N104DA belonging to businessman, Aliko Dangote.
It costs at least $10,000 per hour – about N3.8m – to fly on this luxury jet.
Meanwhile, despite the ban on international flights by many countries around the world following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, private jets have been allowed to land at the Stansted Airport and other similar facilities by the United Kingdom authorities as Britain is one of few countries to keep their borders open during the pandemic.
Between March 23 when the UK declared a lockdown to April 19, a whopping 545 private planes were said to have entered Britain, according to a report by Daily Mail.
The report said 99 of these private jets came from Coronavirus-stricken countries such as Spain, United States, France and Germany at the time.
More private jets from Nigeria and other countries of the world have since flown into the UK on a regular basis after that period as a result of Britain’s open border policy.
The UK presently has 306,210 confirmed Coronavirus cases and 42,927 recorded deaths from the disease while Nigeria has 21,371 confirmed infections and 533 recorded deaths as a result of the pandemic.