The revolution sweeping through the nation’s aviation industry is likely to cause discomfort to private jet owners as a new policy introduced by the Federal Government has come up with stringent conditions for their operations, OYETUNJI ABIOYE writes

The long awaited National Civil Aviation Policy, 2013, which took the Federal Government over one year to prepare, was finally unveiled on Friday with severe rules for private jet owners in the country.

The policy has barred individuals with private jets from carrying their friends and business associates on board the aircraft, stating that only members of their families are allowed aboard.

It states further that companies with private jets are permitted to carry only their employees or members of the Boards of Directors.

Moreover, the policy has also directed that the identities of all passengers onboard any private jet must be made known through a manifest before air traffic control clearance will be sought.

It states, “Approval or clearance from the Director-General, NCAA, will not be required from Nigerians operating non-revenue flights with appropriate insurance policies in the following cases: “For private aircraft owned or leased by individuals, only the family members of the owner/lessee of the aircraft will be permitted on board as passengers; “For private aircraft owned or leased by companies or corporate entities, only the employees and members of the Board of Directors of the company will be permitted on board as passengers.

“For aircraft belonging to non-scheduled or scheduled operators, only the employees and members of the Board of Directors of the company or the corporation may be permitted on board as passengers; all operators will declare the identities of all passengers on non-revenue charter flights in the appropriate general declaration forms prior to obtaining ATC clearance.

“Nigerian carriers operating revenue passenger charter flights will be required to have a current non-scheduled or scheduled operator permit with operations manual that contains flight duty time limitations, which will be strictly monitored on regular basis.”

Similarly, the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, has directed that all foreign-registered private jets will no longer be allowed to stay in the country beyond 15 days as recommended by the NCAP.

She, however, said foreign-registered private jets on special mission in Nigeria would be allowed to stay for only 60 days, following a special approval from the office of the minister.

Part VII of the NCAP 2013, which deals with general aviation (private jets), read in part, “Retention of foreign registered aircraft in Nigeria will not be permitted beyond a period of 15 days from date of entry. However, the Minister of Aviation may, in certain circumstances, grant the extension of this period for up to 60 days.”

The development will affect some pastors, business moguls, governors and politicians, whose private jets are currently carrying registration of countries like the United States, United Kingdom and South Africa among others.

Over 70 per cent of private jets in the country are carrying foreign registration, a former Managing Director of Aerocontractors Airlines, Captain Akin George, has said.

Some industry chief executive officers said the new policy might force most of the business moguls and pastors, whose private jets are currently carrying foreign registration, to fly their jets outside the country every 15 days in order to comply with the policy.

The other option for owners of private jets with foreign registration is to de-register them and subsequently register them in Nigeria, some industry experts have said.

“I think what the government is saying is that most of these people should go and de-register their planes and put them on Nigerian registration,” an industry CEO, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent.

Some business moguls and pastors, who have their private jets registered in foreign countries are: Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God; Pastor David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church; President, Christian Association of Nigeria; Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Alhaji Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Group; Mr. Jimoh Ibahim of Global Fleet; Chief Mike Adenuga of Globacom; and Chief Harry Akande.

State governments, whose jets carry foreign registration numbers, include Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.

The policy has, however, attracted criticisms from industry stakeholders with only a few supporting it.

On the declaration of the identities of all passengers on board a private jet flight, aviation experts said there was no where in the world where such a rule was obtainable; adding that the filing of manifest for private aircraft was not known in international aviation circle.

They said no single country required filing of manifest for local travel in a private aircraft.

An aviation expert and former Military Commandant, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu, said the demand for passengers’ manifest on private aircraft could only be the responsibility of the State Security Services.

“The need for passengers’ manifest on private aircraft, if required, can only be the responsibility of the State Security Services, and in the case of private aircraft on international flight, the Nigerian Immigration Service,” he said.

On the policy allowing only family members and employees/members of Board of Directors on board private aircraft owned by individuals and corporate bodies, respectively, industry experts said the rule was not practicable.

An aviation lawyer, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said, “This new policy means that pastors and business moguls who own private jets cannot carry business associates or friends on board their aircraft. Also, if the jets belong to their churches or companies, it means they cannot carry on board their family members.

“Contrary to this policy, the acceptable standard all over the world is that private aircraft owners are given opportunity by law and regulation to put the aircraft to use for the purpose for which they are being bought.”