Executive Jet Services Limited has apologised to the Federal Government for flying in artise, Azeez Fashola, also known as Naira Marley from Lagos to Abuja, saying the error was a case of ‘mistaken identity’.
The apology comes following the suspension of the company by the Minister of Aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika for flying the musician to Abuja against the airspace closure by government which stipulated that only essential airlift services could be approved due to coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter addressed to Sirika on Monday sighted by TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), Sam Iwu, the company’s chief executive officer, apologised over the incident.
“We hereby apologize for the above flight, with your permit ref: PMA/ATMD/0175/V/V/1268 dated 11th June, 2020,” the letter read.
He admitted that the flight was approved to convey a judge to Abuja but said the intended passenger had found his way to Abuja with the help of another flight.
“Please the flight was to carry a Judge to Abuja on Sunday 14th, 2020 as requested and permit was granted based on the application, but unfortunately when I called the Judge on Saturday morning to inform him that we have the permit, he then said that he has reached Abuja already with a different flight that someone gave him a lift to Abuja.”
Iwu said his team later got an offer to convey another set of passengers to Abuja but added that he was confused when he saw the name Fashola Babatunde thinking it was the minister of works and housing not knowing that “it was a bunch of useless people”.
“So on Saturday morning 13th June, 2020 my staff called me that they have a charter flight to Abuja and that the passengers are already in the lounge as a rule passenger manifest is always sent to me before any departure, when I went through the manifest and I saw FASHOLA BABATUNDE I thought it was the Honorable Minister of Works going to Abuja with his men, so we decided to do the flight since (he) is a serving minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I didn’t know that it was a bunch of useless people.”
He once again apologized for the mistake and promised not to repeat such a mistake again. “We are very sorry for this mistake and we promise that this would not happen again.”
Our correspondent gathered that the name Azeez Fashola, also known as ‘Naira Marley’ was not in the manifest given to Executive Jet Services Limited; rather, the name, Fashola Babatunde, presumably the Minister of Works and Housing and nine others were listed for the flight.
In addition, it was the approval already secured for the airlift of Justice Adegoke Okogie, who was already in Abuja that was used to fly Babatunde who later turned out to be Naira Marley and his entourage.
According to the passenger manifest dated, June 13, 2020, the Lagos-Abuja-Lagos flight conveyed to Abuja, Adewunmi Segun, Chinonso Opara, Fashola Babatunde, Fashola Adeshina and Adeyeye Tobi.
Others were Michael Opeyemi, Idowu Emmanuel, Seyi Awonuga, Wisdom Intoto and Abayomi Akin.
According to the company, Justice Okogie was contacted on Saturday for the Sunday flight and he said he was already in Abuja, the company was informed that there was another flight and it demanded for the manifest of the flight. There was no indication from the names in the manifest that Naira Marley was part of the flight; it was assumed that the Minister that was actually the person that was travelling.
Sirika announced the suspension of the operations of Executive Jet Services indefinitely for violation of the terms of approval granted it to operate a special charter flight from Lagos to Abuja and Abuja to Lagos on June 13 at the Presidential Task Force on COVID -19 briefing in Abuja.
He said the airline would also be fined heavily while the pilot that operated the controversial flight will also be sanctioned.
Sirika said the airline operator was not given approval to fly artiste Naira Marley, who performed at a musical concert, organised by Jabi Lake Mall.
Rather, he said that approval was only given for the flight to convey Justice Adegoke Okogie from Lagos to Abuja.
TNL Recalls that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) had sealed off the Jabi Lake mall, which hosted the singer, for violating restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.