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Private jet owners barred from govt terminal

By The Rainbow
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The last has not been heard of the Federal Government's reforms of the aviation sector, particularly in the private and chartered jet sub-sector.

Barely three months after unveiling a new policy for general aviation, which barred private jet owners from carrying their friends and associates, the Federal Government has stopped private jet owners and chartered jet operators from using the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos for foreign travels.

The order, which has taken effect, was conveyed through a memo from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to the heads of all the security agencies operating at the MMIA.

Airport sources told our correspondent on Friday that following the order, some private jet owners and chartered jet operators had stopped travelling through the international wing of the MMIA.

As a result, private jet owners and chartered jet passengers travelling out and coming into the country will not go through the required security screening, including that of the Immigration, Customs, narcotics control and the State Security Service at the MMIA.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent, also directed the heads of security agencies to deploy personnel to a privately-owned Fixed Base Operation facility to conduct the necessary checks on the private jet owners and passengers before and after foreign trips.

A FBO facility is a mini terminal or an aviation facility where private jet owners and chartered jet operators can also do fuelling, route planning and dispatching, among others.

The FAAN memo was copied to the Director, State Security Service, MMIA; Commissioner of Police, Police Airport Command; Military Airport Commandant, Nigeria Air Force; Comptroller, Nigeria Immigration Service, MMIA; Controller, Nigeria Customs Services, MMIA; and Airport Commander, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.

However, stakeholders, especially private jet owners and chartered jet operators, have opposed the order, saying the development would lead to higher cost of operations.

The operators claimed that the directive would increase the cost of owning and operating private jets as the use of a private facility instead of the government-owned MMIA before embarking on foreign travels would lead to the escalation of their costs.

Some operators have also accused FAAN of conniving with the operator of the FBO to rip off private jet owners and chartered jet operators.

A chartered jet operator, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said, 'I think this is an unfair deal. Why should we all be forced to leave the international terminal to a private facility? This is not best practice any where in the world for the government to force operators to be patronising only one Fixed Base Operation.

'What is wrong with our present arrangement? Is this free to us all or this will be an additional cost to our already strained budget? No consultation whatsoever from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria on this before the implementation. There are so many questions. Is this another 'food for the boys' arrangement? This is so unfair.'

However, FAAN has directed the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency to clear private jets and charter jets from the private facility.

The directive, it was leant, took effect a few weeks ago, but some industry stakeholders said the development would lead to lax security measures for private and chartered jet passengers.

They said that having to screen high profile passengers, who constituted the bulk of private jet owners and passengers at a private facility instead of the government-owned international terminal, might lead to massive compromise of standard security screening required for international travels.

But FAAN, in its memo to NAMA, said it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the owners of the private FBO and that requisite security personnel had been deployed to the facility.

The FAAN memo, dated July 4, 2013, signed by the Regional Manager, Mr. E. A. Olarerin, read, 'Commencement of international business and private jets operations through Quits Aviation Centre at the MMIA: This is to inform your good office that FAAN signed an MoU with M/S Quits located in the MMIA to begin processing all business and private jets at the Quits Aviation Centre.

'Already, all relevant security agencies involved in this operation have performed due diligence on the facility and have given it a clean bill of health, and have subsequently deployed their staff to the centre. In view of this, we hereby solicit the cooperation of NAMA to direct all such flight to process at the new facility.'

However, the General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said there was nothing like barring private and chartered jet operators from the international wing of the MMIA, noting that they were free to operate from there.

But a top official of FAAN, who did not want his name to be mentioned because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the Federal Government had cancelled the MoU with the FBO operator due to increasing pressure from various quarters over the development.

He said the private jet owners and chartered jet operators were free to go back and start flying through the international wing of the MMIA.

However, findings by our correspondent revealed that most of the private jet owners were not aware of this development as most of them are still flying through the FBO facility (PUNCH).