The management of Executive Jet Services Limited, the airline suspended indefinitely on Monday for airlifting the popular Nigerian artist, Azeez Babatunde Fashola alias Naira Marley from Lagos to Abuja on June 13th, 2020 has attributed the development to that of mistaken identity.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had on Monday evening on behalf of the government fed an indefinite suspension of the airline for flying Naira Marley as against the rules that only essential airlift services would be approved for now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airlift of the artist to Abuja by the airline sent social media on fire with Nigerians accusing the aviation authorities of flouting the rules and calling for serious action against the key players.
In an apologetic letter issued by the airline and sent to the minister, the airline declared: “We hereby apologise for the above flight, with your permit ref: FMA/ATMD/0175/V//V/1268 dated 11th June 2020.
Please the flight was to carry a Judge to Abuja on Sunday 14th, 2020 as requested and the 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.
According to a source in the airline, the investigation carried out by the airline after the suspension showed that the Executive Jet approved the airlift of the popular musician, Naira Marley on mistaken identity.
The source said: “We learnt that the name 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 shortlisted for the flight.
In addition, it was the approval already secured for the airlift of Justice Adefope Okoji, who was already in Abuja that was used to fly Babatunde who later turned out to be Naira Marley and his entourage.
“The passenger manifest of the flight dated, June 13, 2020, made available to us, 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.
“There was no indication from the names in the manifest that Naira Marley was part of the flight; it was assumed that the Minister of Works and Housing was actually the person that was travelling.”
The company in a letter of apology signed by the Chairman/CEO of the company, Dr Sam Iwuajoku and sent to the Minister of Aviation, Sirika, read: “So on Saturday morning, 13th June 2020 my staff called and told me that they have a charter flight to Abuja and that the passengers were already at 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 Honourable 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.
“We are very sorry for this mistake and we promise that this would not happen again”.