The number of private jets being acquired by Nigerians –oil magnates, business moguls and pastors – in the last five years has grown exponentially from about 20 jets in 2007 to the current level of more than 150 jets, making Nigeria and China rank as the fastest growing private jet markets in the world.
According to Forbes magazine, private jet purchased by Nigerians may have hit over ₦1 trillion (about $6.5 billion) in those five years. Top on Forbes’ list of Nigerians who own private jets are pastors, especially those of the Pentecostal churches, who have allegedly spent a total of $250 million on their new-found love.
The growth seen in the private flight industry has forced the Nigerian government, through the Federal Ministry of Aviation, to recently inaugurate the first-ever private jet terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. And while the nation is expected to see more private jet terminals at other airports across the country and make more income from jet parking, it has been reported in some quarters that Pentecostal pastors who own jets are already planning of building their own private hangar to accommodate their jets.
Luxury versus Necessity
Some of these clerics have argued that ownership of private jets is not a luxury, but a necessity and essential tool which would make their pastoral duties easier and more efficient. However, while nothing may be wrong in pastors acquiring private jets for evangelism, there should be caution to financial profligacy and excesses.
Unlike what was obtainable in the past when missionaries established schools, hospitals and other social services for the society, most churches today run such ventures to secure their investments. Resources committed to extravagant lifestyle and cost of private jets maintenance could be deployed into more useful activities that will have direct impact on the society. Industry sources say private jet owners in Nigeria spend at least $52.3million (₦8.4billion) annually on maintenance and expatriate pilots.
Bishop David Oyedepo, Founding Bishop of Living Faith Church International a.k.a. Winners Chapel, and billionaire business mogul, Aliko Dangote, are known to have the most number of private jets in the country.
Other Nigerians who own private jets include Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, Peter Odili, Pastor Temitope Joshua of Synagogue Church, Harry Akande, Nduka Obaigbena, Pastor Joseph Agboli of the Victorious Army Ministries, Sayyu Dantata of MRS Group, Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, Rochas Okorocha, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, Isyaku Rabiu of BUA Group, amongst others.
Before the financial meltdown of 2008 which led to the Nigerian banking crisis, it was fashionable for chief executives of Nigerian banks to own private jets; although most of those banks then put their jets for hire ($6,000 per hour).
Joining the High-flying Pastors
Last year, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), joined the league of high-flying Nigerian pastors who own luxurious aircrafts.
The CAN President said the private jet he got-a Canadian-made Bombardier jet with US registration number N431CB, was a gift from his church members to mark the 40th anniversary of his work as a pastor.
With the high cost of maintaining an aircraft, one would expect that a lot of excess investments by pastors should actually be ploughed back into the lives of the poorer ones in the society, especially members of their churches whom they get “prophet offerings” from.