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Government Launches Task Force to Combat Illegal Charter Operations in Nigerian Aviation Sector

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The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, has inaugurated a specialised task force charged with restoring order and legality to private air travel.

Inaugurated the task force aimed at tackling rampant illegal charter operations within Nigeria’s aviation industry on Friday.

Addressing a gathering of industry stakeholders at the inauguration ceremony in Abuja, Minister Keyamo underscored the urgency of the situation.

“Since assuming office, my team and I have identified critical issues that demand immediate attention,” he stated.

“Chief among these is the alarming proliferation of illegal charter flights which undermine regulatory efforts and pose significant risks to national security.

“Together, we will ensure that every flight in our skies adheres to the highest standards of safety and legality.”

Keyamo highlighted the widespread financial losses incurred by the federal government due to these illicit activities.

“Illegal charter operators have exploited regulatory gaps, utilising private aircraft for unlawful purposes such as money laundering and drug trafficking,” he revealed, citing recent alerts from the National Security Adviser.

He said, “These illicit activities have not only resulted in significant financial losses to the Federal Government, but have also raised security and safety concerns as the operations of private aircraft owners have remained largely unchecked and unregulated. This has also resulted in using these private aircrafts for other illegal activities.

“Last week, the National Security Adviser wrote to us, alerting us of the spike in money laundering, drug-trafficking and other illegal activities through the use of private aircrafts in the country.

“It appears that Private Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF) operators have become increasingly emboldened, continuing their illegal operations with the assistance of Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holders who collect tolls and list these illegal charters under their AOCs.

“Furthermore, we have received alarming reports that some crew members have not attended mandatory simulator trainings for nearly three years and are flying with fraudulently-obtained renewed licenses. Many of these individuals are operating planes registered under PNCF but are conducting illegal charter operations with impunity.”

The Minister expressed grave concern over safety compromises within the sector, noting reports of crew members operating with outdated training and fraudulently-obtained licenses.

“This situation cannot be allowed to persist,” he emphasised, linking these lapses to unchecked illegal charter operations.

The task force is named the Ministerial Task Force on Illegal Private Charter Operations and Related Matters.

The task force, comprising industry figures including Captains Ado Sanusi and Roland Iyayi, as chairman and vice chairman.

Other members are Ag. Director of Air Transport, Aviation Ministry, Secretary; Theresa Babayo (Director, NCAA), member; Commander of the Presidential Air Fleet, AVM O. Oyesola, member ( office of the NSA); Capt. Daniel Quansah, member; Capt. Patrick Ogunlowo, member and Obafemi Bajomo, SA to the Minister, member.

“The task force will investigate the persistence of illegal charters despite existing controls, verify the authenticity of all pilot and crew licenses, and propose stringent measures to curb these activities,” Keyamo outlined, detailing the scope of their responsibilities.

The task force is mandated to conduct a thorough inventory of Private Non-Commercial Flight (PNCF) and Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holders.

Other responsibilities listed include:

a) To take inventory of all PNCF holders and AOC holders.

b) To determine why the practice of illegal charters by PNCF holders persists in the country despite regulatory controls.

c) To call in all professional licenses of pilots and crew in the country and determine their authenticity and validity.

d) To recommend to the Minister any additional measures to be taken by regulatory agencies to stem this ugly tide.

e) To recommend appropriate sanctions to be imposed by the regulatory agencies on defaulters.

f) To recommend additional measures to further monitor the operations and activities of private aircraft in Nigeria.

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g.) Any other term of reference that may be determined by the Minister as the Task Force continues its work.

Capt. Ado Sanusi, appointed as Chairman of the task force, pledged to prioritize transparency and accountability in their operations.

“We understand the gravity of the issues at hand and are committed to restoring integrity to Nigeria’s aviation sector,” Capt. Sanusi assured the minister.

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