OVER the past couple of years there has been an upsurge in the number of private aircraft acquired by Nigeria’s “high and mighty”.
Gone are the days wealthy Nigerian expressed their “arrival” in the exclusive club by flying first class or business class in commercial airlines. Many of them have upgraded to owning private aircraft.
Most of these new aircraft owners bear the additional fantasy of chartering commercial airlines to ferry their friends and other guests to private events such as weddings, funerals and other social engagements.
Last December, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, disclosed that the number of private aircraft in Nigeria leapt from 50 in 2009 to 200 by the end of last year, thus sparking off keen interest of aircraft manufacturers and vendors on Nigeria as one of the world’s emerging most lucrative markets.
An analysis pins the jet craze list down mainly to those who have access to large pools of public funds. These include top bank executives and directors, preachers, politically connected individuals and people handling illegally or corruptly acquired funds, otherwise known as funds from unverifiable sources.
While it is also true that quite a good number of private jet owners are engaged in legitimate economic activities in manufacturing, banking, telecommunication, and the oil and gas industry, the challenges people in genuine businesses face due to difficulties in the policy environment do not permit most of them the luxury of owning private aircraft.
One of the biggest defences of private jet owners is that their time is too precious to be wasted on uncertainties of commercial air travel. They have business executives elsewhere as their reference. This argument raises the issue of legitimacy of businesses that create the funds for purchase of these private jets. Do the proceeds of the businesses support the splashes on private aircraft?
The Nigerian constitution generously provides for freedom to acquire properties, under which private aircraft fall. Nobody can deny people their right to enjoy their wealth, as long as they are from legitimate sources.
Severe social inequalities, where only a few individuals are enjoying the benefits of our modest economic prosperity, while the masses are wallowing in abject poverty, unemployment and exposure to decaying public infrastructure have worsening impacts where the rich display their wealth.
The growing poverty and desperation among the youth have spawned social vices across the country, such as kidnapping, violent robberies, killing of innocent citizens for money-making rituals and terrorism.
Security agencies should pay more attention to the legitimacy of the resources Nigerians flaunt. Nobody should be witch-hunted. Appropriate taxes on consumption of luxury items could raise more funds to finance more public infrastructure.