Nigeria’s Wealthiest Own Private Jets, Avoid Spotlight


It’s difficult to estimate exactly how many private jets there are in Nigeria because most are registered in other countries, says Rady Fahmy, the executive director of the African Business Aviation Association, in a BBC report. Aircraft in Nigeria and most of Africa are owned by individual businessmen and women, unlike North America and Europe, where private jets are usually corporate owned. “The choice to put it under (Nigerian) individuals’ names is due to financing requirements,” Fahmy told BBC. Most Nigerian jet owners avoid the spotlight, especially when it comes to discussing their wealth, although within aviation circles it is common knowledge who owns what, the report said. Nigerians have spent $6.5 billion on private jets, BBC reports. The country’s wealthiest are buying them to avoid flying on commercial airlines. Even traveling in business class can be problematic, with frequent delays and rerouting an inconvenience for everyone. At ExecuJet Aviation Nigeria, Peter de Waal showed a BBC reporter jets lined up in a hangar with a team of engineers working on them. ExecuJet is now authorized by major aviation companies to do maintenance on business aircraft. Previously, maintenance was done in Europe and the U.S, “but our services here can help save time and an enormous cost,” De Waal told BBC. So who owns what? The long-range Bombardier Global Express XRS (ticket price: $50 million) is preferred by those at the top of the rich list, including Africa’s wealthiest businessman Aliko Dangote, oil baroness Folorunsho Alakija, and the mobile phone tycoon Mike Adenuga, according to CNN. Other popular models with owners ranging from politicians to clergymen cost $39 million to $57 million including the Gulfstream G550, Bombardier Challenger 605, and Dassault Falcon 900. BBC reporter Tomi Oladipo got a tour inside a private plane, custom upholstered in polished dark wood trim with a mini-bar and gray leather seats. The passenger area was divided into several parts, including an area for business meetings, a private area with a large couch that can be converted into a bed, and a bathroom. The billionaire businessman owner asked not to be identified, BBC said. The planes are also mostly registered overseas in the U.S., Bermuda, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Mauritius. Some industry insiders say they think Nigeria’s private jet owners prefer it this way because aircraft lose their resale value if they are registered in Nigeria over fears of maintenance standards. It is difficult to ignore the tens of millions of Nigerians who cannot afford commercial air travel, never mind owning aircraft, the BBC reports. Many Nigerians have never flown in their lives. Nigeria boasts steady economic growth but the general perception is that few are benefiting from this boom apart from its 500-plus wealthiest citizens with estimated assets of more than $50 million. For those who can’t afford their own planes, Nigeria’s chartered flights business is also booming, attracting international companies such as Hanger8 and VistaJet, BBC reports. Manufacturers such as Beechcraft Corp. have entered the African market and are focusing on Nigeria as the the air transport industry and business aviation boom. “We have seen a large number of deliveries of business aircraft across the continent over the past decade,” said Scott Plumb, Beechcraft’s vice president of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a BBC interview. “We fully expect this trend to continue as a greater number of entrepreneurs and corporate entities seek to take advantage of the benefits of business air travel on the back of Africa’s strong economic growth.” Nigeria’s larger-than-life VIPs often travel with huge entourages of friends and aides, BBC reports. “You can sometimes see five or six cars at the same time to receive one person,” De Waal said. In 2013 the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority ordered a luxury tax of $3,000 every time a private jet departed. Jet owners said it was unfair and the senate quickly suspended the order, according to BBC — proof that Nigeria’s wealthy businessmen and women wield political influence. 


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