…Aircraft flown to CBN governor’s mother’s burial
09 April 2016, Abuja – Top-rated Canadian-made private jets chartered regularly by the immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, are now being flown by the new Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, investigations by Saturday PUNCH have shown.
The development brings to question the new administration’s criticism of financial recklessness of the previous administration and its resolve to cut costs in the face of falling oil prices.
The Bombardier luxury private jets with cozy interior, flown by Kachikwu and Emefiele belong to VistaJet Holding SA, a Swiss charter airline that has satellite facilities in some countries of the world, including Nigeria.
Diezani had faced sharp criticism for chartering VistaJet’s private jets for several months and accumulating huge sums of bills that was almost half of the cost of a private jet.
The CBN, impeccable sources within the apex bank revealed, had also entered into a long-term and renewable contract with VistaJet.
The contract gives Emefiele unfettered access to one of VistaJet’s luxury planes any time of the day and for whatever number of hours.
According to top officials of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency working in the Air Traffic Control Towers in Lagos and Abuja airports, Emefiele has been flying regularly one of VistaJet’s private jets.
He has been sighted flying the Bombardier Challenger 850 flown by Diezani during the last administration.
According to unconfirmed sources, the CBN pays $1m to VistaJet a year for the use of any of its jets by the governor any time.
A top official of the CBN, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the apex bank and VistaJet had signed an agreement that allowed the governor to make use of any of the private jets on demand.
The central bank official, however, said the amount was not up to $1m a year, saying he neither had the details nor the terms of the contract.
The CBN source said, “The CBN entered the agreement because of flight delays and cancellations associated with domestic airlines. Because of the nature of the work of the CBN governor, he may be wanted at the Presidency or any other key place at any time. The only way he can meet up is to enter into this kind of arrangement. The frequent disappointments associated with local airlines may not allow this to happen. This is why we bought block hours from the firm.”
Asked why such an agreement was not signed with any of the local charter airlines, the official said, “This company, though a foreign one, has met all the requirements of the CBN. The apex bank also discovered that they will perform. I am sure if other local players met the requirements, they could have been considered.”
Although VistaJet planes fly customers to any part of the world, the CBN official said the agreement with the apex bank was limited to only domestic flights.
“The demand of the job at the CBN requires such an agreement. You can recall that during the military era, the CBN used to have a private jet of its own. But this time, we are not buying, it is just to buy block hours and this is limited to domestic flights,” the CBN official added.
The Acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, had yet to respond to calls and text messages, seeking clarifications on the matter as of the time of filing this report.
The VistaJets’ representative in Nigeria could not be reached for comments. Calls and text messages sent to the official telephone lines did not go through.
Meanwhile, findings from NAMA Air Traffic Control Towers showed that one of the VistaJet private jets was flown by Emefiele and Kachikwu to the former’s mother burial in Delta State last week.