By Chinedu Eze
The federal government has impounded an aircraft belonging to Flex Jet, a United Kingdom-based aviation company, for illegally operating a commercial flight into Nigeria.
It added that the airline was only given a permit to carry out humanitarian operations.
Since the airspace was closed on March 23, only humanitarian and cargo operations were approved by the Ministry of Aviation.
However, Flex Jet was alleged to have arrived from Cotonou to conduct commercial service in Nigeria.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, confirmed this on his official Twitter handle, saying the crew of the flight was also being interrogated and there would be maximum penalty for the offence.
According to the tweet on
Sirika’s @hadisirika handle: “COVID-19. (Flex Jet), a UK company, was given approval for humanitarian operations but regrettably we caught them conducting commercial flights. This is callous! The craft is impounded, crew being interrogated. There shall be maximum penalty. Wrong time to try our resolve!”
THISDAY learnt that the registration number of the aircraft is G-ERFX.
As at press time it was impounded and parked at Quits Aviation Limited facility at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos.
THISDAY investigation also revealed that Flex Jet applied to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), requesting to conduct humanitarian evacuation operations, but the regulatory authority discovered later that it was actually carrying out commercial operations.
Also the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) received directive from NCAA to allow the aircraft into Nigeria and NAMA gave it clearance before the ulterior motive of the flight was discovered.
The aircraft, which arrived the country on May 15, had 24 hours leeway it could stay in Nigeria, according to documents from NAMA obtained by THISDAY.
According to the flight brief from Flex Jet obtained by THISDAY, the 13-seater aircraft wanted to operate flight from Lagos, airlifting six passengers from MMIA to Stansted Airport, London on May 16 (Saturday) and on May 17, operate another flight from Lagos to Alicante Airport, Spain, airlifting seven passengers.
The Ministry of Aviation had in a letter dated, May 13, directed NCAA, NAMA and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to facilitate the humanitarian operations of the flight.
The letter was titled: “Re: Request for Humanitarian Evacuation Flight to London in Support of the federal government Effort to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19” and signed by the Director, Air Transport Management on behalf of the minister.