Nigerian musical artiste, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, may face severe sanctions from the Federal Capital Territory Administration for holding a concert in Abuja on Saturday in violation of the COVID-19 guidelines.
Similarly, the airline and the pilot, who flew him to Abuja, are facing serious sanctions for their roles in the show.
The Federal Government, on Monday, announced the indefinite suspension of the operations of Executive Jet Services and said it would impose the maximum fine on the operator for violating the flight approval it received from the Federal Ministry of Aviation.
The government also said the pilot of the jet would also be sanctioned for giving wrong information to the control tower.
The Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, said the FCT authorities would take a decision on the matter.
He said, “With regards to the fate of Naira Marley, I believe that the FCT authorities have already taken action with regards to the key organisers of the show.
“The decision in terms of whether or not he (Naira Marley) will face penalties is actually a decision for the FCT authorities. The PTF will certainly support any measures taken against people, who continue to violate the implementation of the guidelines that we have clearly enumerated, particularly if they continue to put public health at risk.”
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said approval for the flight was for an essential service, as opposed to what it was eventually used for.
Sirika stated, “So, Executive Jet Services’ operations are hereby suspended indefinitely and we will also fine the firm maximally according to the law.
“The captain of the flight will also be sanctioned for giving wrong information to the control tower in accordance with the law.”
Explaining what transpired before the approval was granted, the minister said the flight was meant to convey Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie to Abuja.
Sirika said, “We approved a flight, but certainly not for any musician. The flight, from the application, was to convey Justice Adefope-Okojie from Lagos to Abuja and back to Lagos for an official assignment.
“And in this terrible time, in our wisdom, we considered the judiciary to be part of essential services to be delivered and to move the justice from Lagos to Abuja was in order.
“The approval was given for June 14, 2020. However, we do give them a leeway of 24 hours. Sometimes due to operational reasons, they can either operate the flight slightly earlier or slightly forward within the 24-hour window.
“In this case, the operator chose to fly on June 13 around 6pm. So, that in itself is not a violation, because we gave them the leeway. The operator is Executive Jet Services.”
The minister said the approval was very clear, as he read part of the document from the Federal Ministry of Aviation to the Chairman of Executive Jet Services.
He stated that the approval was signed by the Director of Air Management Services on behalf of the minister.
The approval stated, “I am directed to refer to your letter dated June 11, 2020, on the above subject matter and to convey the minister’s approval for your company to operate a chartered flight from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, on June 14, 2020, to drop off Justice Adefope-Okojie in Abuja for an official assignment.
“I am further directed to request that you ensure that this operation is strictly and diligently based on the protocols guiding the operation under COVID-19 as issued by Nigerian aeronautical authorities, most especially the air operators’ letter issued by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.”
Sirika added that the document that was given to the control tower also made it clear that the operation must be strictly under the COVID-19 protocols.
“Now, the operation was a clear violation of our approval to which we take very seriously and it seems that this is becoming a norm, perhaps this is the second time,” the minister stated.
Sirika added that based on recent developments, the Federal Government would make approvals for chartered flights stricter.
He stressed that severe sanctions would now be applied against violators of such approvals.
He said, “Now, it seems also that people are not tired of trying our resolve and I want them to know that we are also not tired of living and rising up to the challenge and our responsibility of keeping our people safe.
“We will now escalate the mechanisms that we have in place to deter people from doing so and it also means that we will be stricter in our approvals. Anyone, who dares us, will face the consequences.”
The Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, condemned the hosting of the concert at the Jabi Mall in Abuja, stressing that such risky behaviours could lead to a rise in COVID-19 infection if any positive case attended the musical show.
“If we have a positive from that community (concert attendees), we have a problem; we do have a problem if we are to find someone, who turns out to be positive that went to that gathering; then, we will really have a problem on our hands. We hope that doesn’t happen,” Ihekweazu said.