Chairman of West Link Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia, has opposed the 60-day suspension imposed on a private jet operator for allegedly converting its aircraft into charter services, causing the government and agencies to the required revenues and taxes
Mshelia said the suspension and planned seizure of the unamed operator’s Permit for Non- Commercial Flight (PNCF) by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is not enough punishment to deter others from engaging in such act in the future.
He said the regulatory agency should rather hand over such people to the security agencies for proper prosecution, insisting that such an act was an economic crime against the state.
He however said that the NCAA’s action might be limited because of the civil aviation regulations, but declared that for proper cleansing of the sub-sector, it is proper for the Department of Security Services (DSS) and other security agencies to wade into the matter.
At a virtual meeting last week, the Director General of the NCAA, Capt Musa Nuhu, revealed that the regulatory agency apprehended a private jet operator who used its aircraft for charter services.
He also said that the unnamed culprit’s licence would be suspended for about 60 days with additional sanction if found guilty.
He said the NCAA has put in mechanisms to identify illegal operators who converted their private jets into hire and reward, thereby denying the Federal Government the requisite revenues, while the registered charter operators also lose clients and revenues.
He then threatened that the agency would apply the full weight of the law and also increase its ramp checks to reduce such acts in the industry.
“These private operators are required to file monthly reports on the number of flights conducted and with passenger manifest for us to look and determine that possibly these are legal charter operations.
“We are dealing with actually one of the Permit for Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF), the enforcement team has recommended 60 days’ suspension of its certificate in addition to a fine. So, they have a period of 30 days for which to get back to us or protest or bring evidence that we ask them,” Nuhu said.
But Mshelia advised that instead of engaging in illegal charter services, private jet operators should change their license to commercial, airlift clients legally, create more jobs for professionals and pay the appropriate levies and taxes to the government.
“The real truth is that there are powerful people behind all these illegal actions. If they are not, it would have been easy to flush them out. They want to live big. Some of these people are in a position to stop this in a minute, but they are involved in it. If we dig deeper, we will find them out.
“I disagree with the DG on the 60 days suspension of licence. That is a crime against the economy of the country. That is a crime against all we stand for. Why will NCAA just give such a little punishment? The punishment should be more serious.
“NCAA is not a law court; it has its limitation legislatively on how it can punish citizens legislatively. I want to advise that the NCAA should go further by handing over the culprit for prosecution in the law court. In that case, it will be in order. To me, the 60 days is too little,” Mshelia said.