Executive Jets Services Ltd says it airlifted rapper Babatunde Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, from Lagos to Abuja for a concert, in error.

On Monday, June 15, 2020, Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika suspended Executive Jets for lying about its operations and for violating the ban that has shut Nigeria’s airspace since March, in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Marley’s concert in Abuja on Saturday, June 13, sparked outrage on social media platforms for its violation of social and physical distancing protocols.

It was also staged at a time when interstate travel by land and air is still prohibited by federal and state governments.

Nigeria's aviation minister Hadi Sirika, pictured July 2018 (Punch)Nigeria’s aviation minister Hadi Sirika, pictured July 2018 (Punch)

In a letter dated June 15, 2020 and addressed to Aviation Minister Sirika, the Chairman and CEO of ExecuJets, Sam Iwuajoku apologized for the flight that took Marley to Abuja and referred to the rapper and his crew as a “bunch of useless people.”

Iwuajoku admitted that “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.”

Iwuajoku added that he was tricked into picking Marley because the rapper bears the same name as Nigeria’s Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola.

Execujet letter of apologyExecujet letter of apology

“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 it is a serving Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I didn’t know it was a bunch of useless people.

“We are very sorry for this mistake and we promise that this will not happen again.”

When Pulse put a phone call across to ExecuJets CEO Iwuajoku to ascertain if the letter did come from him, he quickly hung up in anger. A text message sent to him has also not been replied.

Marley has styled himself as an outlaw [Instagram/NairaMarley]
Marley has styled himself as an outlaw [Instagram/NairaMarley]

Nigeria has had a hard time enforcing coronavirus-induced restrictions, with police officers and allied authorities aiding and abetting interstate travel and the flouting of federally imposed curfews, for a fee.

It is the second time that Marley, who has branded himself and his fans as outlaws, would be found on the wrong side of the law in COVID-19 season.

In April, Marley showed up at a house party organised by actress Funke Akindele and her rapper husband JJC Skillz, in Lagos, epicenter of Nigeria’s COVID-19 outbreak.

He got away with a slap on the wrist for his troubles.

Nigeria has recorded 16,658 coronavirus cases as of Monday, June 15, 2020, with 424 deaths and 5,349 recoveries.